No Muslim in New Nitish Kumar Govt Reflects ‘BJP-isation’ of JD(U)
In terms of Muslim representation, as of now Nitish Kumar fares worse than UP CM Yogi Adityanath and PM Modi.
There's not a single Muslim minister in the newly sworn in Nitish Kumar government in Bihar. It is possible that a Muslim minister may be included when a Cabinet expansion takes place but as of now, even the Minority Affairs Ministry is with a person from the majority community – Ashok Chaudhary.
In terms of representation, this is worse than the situation in Uttar Pradesh and the Centre, where the only Muslim minister has been given the Minority Affairs Ministry.
It is similar to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states like Karnataka, where the ministry hasn't been given to someone from the minority community.
This article will try and look at two questions:
- What explains this lack of representation?
- Why is this important?
What Explains This Lack of Representation?
The simple reason for this is that not one of the Janata Dal (United)'s (JD(U)) 11 Muslim candidates managed to win their seats and the BJP didn't field a single Muslim candidate.
A total of 19 MLAs got elected, a fall of five from 2015. Here's the party-wise break-up of these 19: RJD 8, AIMIM 5, Congress 4 and one each from CPI-ML and BSP.
This is a clear reflection of the view among a majority of Bihar's Muslims, who don't want anything to do with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). And if there is any disaffection with the Mahagathbandhan, Muslim voters preferred to express it by voting for the AIMIM.
It is clear that the JD(U)'s credibility among Muslims has nosedived. This happened in two phases. The first was when the JD(U) ditched the Mahagathbandhan and switched sides to the NDA in 2017. As many Muslims had voted for it to defeat the BJP, they saw this as a betrayal.
The final blow came after the JD(U) supported the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at the Parliament. The Act, which is said to be discriminatory against Muslims, sparked outrage in the community and Bihar became one of the epicentres of protests.
Nitish Kumar tried to balance his support for the Act by not cracking down on the protests, the way BJP governments did in states like Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.
But the damage had already been done.
Even his outreach among Pasmanda Muslims and Muslim women came to naught as these sections also voted against the NDA in the 2020 elections.
Why Is This Significant?
At one level, this is not a big deal as Nitish Kumar doesn't quite have a stellar record in giving representation to Muslims in the government. In the outgoing Nitish Kumar government, there was only one Muslim minister Feroz Ahmed, who only had the charge of minority affairs.
Compare this with the Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan government from 2015 to 2017, in which there were four Muslim ministers, and they held important portfolios like finance and excise.
However, if we compare it with 2010, when Nitish was at his peak, it is a major departure. Even in 2010, the JD(U) had contested in alliance with the BJP and yet seven Muslims were elected on JD(U) tickets and even the BJP had a Muslim MLA.
That was a slightly different NDA, whose politics wasn't as stridently anti-Muslim as it is now. As a result Muslims, too, were open to vote for the NDA.
The Nitish Kumar government had a number of schemes specifically aimed at Muslims.
But with the BJP now pursuing an unambiguous Hindutva agenda, it has become clear to Muslims that nothing will come out of propping up a BJP ally.
Clearly, the alliance with the BJP has cost Nitish Kumar whatever support he had among Muslims and compromised his governance model.
It is not clear if this bridge will ever be mended.
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