The newly sworn in cabinet minsters in the Prime Minsiter Modi-led NDA government.
The newly sworn in cabinet minsters in the Prime Minsiter Modi-led NDA government. (Photo| PTI)

No Muslim representation in Modi 3.0 cabinet, a first in Indian history

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For the first time in India, a Union Cabinet has been formed without a single Muslim minister in it. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led cabinet that came into being on Sunday saw representation from across states, classes and castes but not for the 200 million Muslim population in the country.

Interestingly, the outgoing council of ministers of the Narendra Modi-led government did not have a Muslim minister either after BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi failed to be re-elected to Rajya Sabha in 2022, three years after he took oath as Minorities Affairs Minister. Mukhtar was the only Muslim minister in the BJP government's cabinet. In 2014, when PM Narendra Modi came into power for the first time, then Rajya Sabha MP Najma Heptulla was made the Minority Affairs Minister, again the only Muslim representation in the cabinet.

In 1999, the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had two Muslims in the council of ministers — Shahnawaz Hussain and Omar Abdullah. In 1998, the Vajpayee-led ministry had Naqvi as Minister of State.

The council of ministers in Congress-led UPA governments in 2004 and 2009 had four and five Muslim MPs respectively.

Even before, India always had at least one Muslim minister sworn in after the general elections. This is the first time that the community has been completely deprived of representation at the centre.

In the recently concluded elections, 24 Muslims have been elected as MPs, 21 from the INDIA alliance, one Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM, and Independent MPs Abdul Rashid Sheikh or ‘Engineer Rashid’ from J&K and Mohmad Haneefa from Ladakh. The ruling NDA did not have a Muslim, Sikh or Christian MP in their list of 293 MPs. However, non-elected Christian and Sikh leaders were added to the union ministry.

"As they have done with Christian and Sikhs by inducting non elected people into cabinet, it would be good form for the Modi regime to induct a Muslim, 14 per cent of India’s population. On TV last night both JD(U) and TDP spokies told me not to critique as this is not final cabinet. Even cosmetic civilities have some meaning when India engages with the world," political analyst and author Saba Naqvi wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"It is not about the BJP reaching out to Muslims, it is about them looking very pathetic to the world. We know the ideology of BJP is very anti-Muslim, but it will look shabby to the world if they do not find someone to represent the community," Naqvi told TNIE.

Senior journalist and author O Abdurahman said the lack of Muslim representation in the Modi-led cabinet resonates with the third time Prime Minster's approach towards the community.

"It is something that happened very organically..Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election campaigns were centred around statements against Muslims. In that context, it is obvious that Muslims in India might have voted against his party. This could have been a reason why BJP has no Muslim parliamentarian," said Abdurahman.

On the possibility of the big allies in the NDA government thinking otherwise and pressing the BJP to induct a Muslim minister in the coming days, Naqvi said the saffron party will do it themselves as they are concerned about their image being diminished in front of the world.

However, Abdurahman said that token representation is a lesser concern when it comes to upliftment of the community.

"Having no Muslim minister is a lesser concern, if the current ministers are able to abide by the constitution and perform their duties without any discrimination then there is no need for a Muslim minister. At the same time, even after having a Muslim minister for the sake of representation, if the government is not able to deliver to the community, then there is no point in it," he said.