Verdict 2014

Modi wave sweeps away Muslim representation in Lok Sabha

Only 4.05% of the members of the new Lok Sabha are Muslim – the lowest figure in five decades.

India’s 150 million Muslims will have only 22 representatives in the 16th Lok Sabha.

As the Bharatiya Janta Party forms India's first single-party majority government in 30 years, Muslims have been eclipsed. Only 4.05% of the members of the new Lok Sabha are Muslim – the lowest figure in 50 years. The 2009 polls saw 30 MPs being elected. Muslim representation in the Lok Sabha has hovered at around 5-6% for the last 25 years, with the highest number of 49 MPs (10%) being recorded in 1980.

This year's figure is a result of the decimation of the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which had driven Muslim participation in recent elections

The state-wise contribution to Muslim representatives is not encouraging – all the 22 MPs hail from only seven states and one Union Territory. Fourteen states have not elected a single Muslim MP over the last 25 years.

In an unexpected turn of events, Uttar Pradesh has no Muslim MPs for the first time since Independence. This time, 34 parties had fielded 144 Muslim candidates in the state, which has an 18.5% Muslim population. Over the last 25 years, UP has sent more Muslims to the Lok Sabha – 45 – than any other state. The UP result is surprising because in the 2012 assembly elections, Muslims had achieved for the first time a representation (17%), close to their population (18.5%).

The polarisation of voters on religious lines in Western Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest ratio of Muslim voters, seems to have paid off for the BJP, as they won everywhere, including in constituencies with 40% or more Muslims.

West Bengal has elected 8 Muslim MPs, more than any other state this year, followed by Jammu & Kashmir (3) and Bihar (4).

Maharashtra, with a Muslim population of around 11%, did not vote in any Muslims in this time. In fact, the state has sent only one Muslim to the Lok Sabha since 1989.

The BJP fielded seven Muslims in its list of 428 candidates (1.63%) – none of whom won. The Congress pool of 462 candidates featured  27 Muslims (6%) , of whom three won. The BJP lost its sole Muslim MP Shahnawaz Hussain from Bhagalpur in Bihar, to Shailesh Kumar of the Rashtriya Janata Dal with a margin of 9,485 votes.

Among the seven successful Muslim incumbents was All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen’s Asaduddin Owaisi, who scored a hat-trick in Hyderabad. He defeated his nearest rival Bhagvanth Rao of the BJP by a margin of nearly two lakh votes. Veteran Muslim parliamentarian E Ahmed of the Indian Union Muslim League also walked away with a winning majority, towards his seventh innings in parliament.

Moving beyond the arithmetic, what does the BJP victory hold for India’s minorities? There are fears among the community that a BJP-led government will neglect them, thus reinforcing their sense of marginalisation. Others fear that the BJP might take advantage of its majority to pass contentious laws to proceed with building a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya over the demolished Babri Masjid, or to impose a uniform civil code. Regardless of these fears, the fact that India’s largest minority community does not have an effective voice in the people’s assembly does not bode well for India's pluralism.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.