In certain states in India, especially, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Gujarat, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, it has become nearly impossible now for Muslims to win Lok Sabha election.
But for decades, Betul, a constituency in central India, that has barely 2.5% minorities elected candidates belonging to the minority communities.
In fact, it had been labelled as a minority seat. For decades, not just winners but opposition candidates here were also Muslims. The constituency came into existence in 1967.
In the first two elections, veteran Congress leader, late NKP Salve, a Christian, won from here on Congress ticket. After his victories in 1967 and 1971, he lost the election from here in 1977. Subhash Ahuja who contested on Lok Dal ticket, had won that year.
In the year 1980, Congress strongman from Bhopal, Ghufran-e-Azam contested from Betul and got elected from here. He defeated Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) candidate Subhash Chand Ahuja by nearly 30,000 votes.
In the next election, in the year 1984, former Olympian [hockey player] Aslam Sher Khan won from this constituency. He fought on Congress ticket and defeated independent candidate MN Buch, a retired bureaucrat, by a margin of 37.950 votes.
Five years later, yet another famous Muslim leader Arif Beg [recalled for his 'mere mulk ke maaliko' address for the crowd in election rallies], contested from here. Beg was fielded by the BJP. It was the era of Ram Mandir movement.
Beg defeated Congress' Aslam Sher Khan by over 40,000 votes. But two years later, Aslam Sher Khan avenged his defeat. In 1991 election, Aslam Sher Khan, who fought on Congress ticket, defeated BJP's Arif Beg, by 22,733 votes.
In 1996, BJP gave ticket to Vijay Khandelwal, who defeated Aslam Sher Khan by a huge margin. It was post-1992 era, communal polarisation had begun in MP, and it was becoming nearly impossible for Muslims to win even in the Assembly elections.
Congress tried a minority candidate from here, just once, after this defeat. In 1999, it gave ticket to Ghufran Azam. he secured over 2 lakh votes (nearly 39%) but lost by a margin of 64,000 votes. Since t hen, neither BJP nor Congress fielded a minority candidate.
But the seat is an example o.f how minority candidates have won [and can win] from constituencies where they have very small concentration. This is really the beauty of Indian democracy. The overwhelming majority of Hindus voted for Muslims at this seat and helped launch the political career of the Muslim politicians.
In 32 years, there were ten elections here. Of the 20 candidates who won and lost here, 12 were from minority community. Often the winner and loser were both Muslim, despite the fact that minority communities are barely 2.5% of the population in this constituency.
Don't blame parties alone for failing to field candidates
It is easy to blame parties for not giving proper representation. But the fact is that there are few leaders worthy of ticket in the region. The first and most basic job of a a politician is to remain active in their area.
If they work in the constituency and nurture it, people will remember them and even reward them. However, they expect that the party would give ticket and this should be enough for them to sail through. And those who lose once, just leave the area--going to State capital or national capital, forgetting the electorate.
Times have changed, they must realise.