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Monday, June 01, 2009

Should there be more Muslim ministers in cabinet?


For the last couple of days, there has been a clamour among sections of Muslim intelligentsia and Urdu press regarding the poor representation of Muslims in the cabinet.

In 'letters to editor' column of half-a-dozen odd Urdu papers published from Delhi , there are readers expressing their dissatisfaction over the lack of Muslims in cabinet. I don't agree with this demand for more Muslim faces in the ministry.

Agreed that Muslims did vote for Congress and that in the last cabinet we had several senior Muslim leaders, but I don't think it's so important to have more Muslim faces in the cabinet.

I would any day prefer a visionary minister who is able to conceive schemes for wider public interest and is able to implement them, rather than having a duffer minister who is sole qualification is that he belongs to my caste or community.

Yes, many young Muslims have been elected to the Lok Sabha. Someone complained that just like Agatha Sangma, the other young girl from Maldah, Musam Benazir Noor, could also have been given a ministry or Qaiser Jahan from Uttar Pradesh.

But shouldn't these newly elected representatives first work in their constituency? They are novices and should first go to the constituency and try to develop it, or at least, understand the constituency, the problems of the area and make efforts to bring developmental projects.

An MP who works in a constituency is more needed in this country that has a plethora of problems at every level. It will be helpful to the politician also, in the long run. We have had dozens of Muslim MPs in parliament and non-performing Ministers in the past parliaments. But till date the socialist Congress leader Rafi Ahmad Kidwai is remembered for his role as agriculture minister during the food scarcity, a crisis which he efficiently sorted out.

If someone is as efficient then it's prudent to push his case. In fact, it's mostly non-Muslim leaders and MPs who spoke and took initiatives for the overall good of the community. I would any day prefer a Pranab Mukherjee who represents the Muslim-dominated Jangipur (West Bengal) who tried to understand the problems of bidi workers and saved nearly 4.5 lakh jobs (mostly Muslims), over any other Muslim MP or minister.

And what would an ordinary citizen (or even Muslim) get if a Muslim becomes a Minister and the figures goes up from 5 to 6-7 or even 10. No riots, development for all, pro-poor policies irrespective of caste or community, justice and equality is what is needed. Not creamy ministries for a few.

Due representation as per population is a factor for every group of populace but those raising the issue should rather focus on 'representation' when it when it comes to school enrollment, jobs and opening of primary health centres in Muslim-dominated areas (where the imbalance is much more severe and needed).

Interestingly, many of the turncoats who were out of touch with reality lost. Shahid Siddiqui tried to spread the canard that Indian Muslims were against Nuclear deal. However, he lost the election from a constituency that has over 40% Muslims apart from a huge Dalit electorate, though he was fighting on BSP ticket.

There are five Muslim Ministers in the central cabinet including Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Salman Khurshid, Sultan Ahmad and E Ahamed. Three of them are seasoned politicians, two of them having served in the cabinet before. Let's see what they are going to do.

Meanwhile, my earlier post on 'Less Muslim MPs but no regrets' published on this blog a fortnight back (on May 18) has found resonance elsewhere. Telegraph published a similar story a few days later (on May 24), 'Fewer MPs, but minorities' don't mind'.