Arif Aqueel is the only Muslim candidate to win in Madhya Pradesh in 2008 and 2013
Congress' Arif Aqueel, 66, is the only Muslim lawmaker in the outgoing Madhya Pradesh assembly. He represents the Bhopal North constituency, which is dominated by people belonging to the minority community. He is in fact the only Muslim candidate to win in Madhya Pradesh in the past two assembly elections.
According to the 2011 census, there are over 47 lakh Muslims in Madhya Pradesh, which is around 6.5 per cent of its total population. But both the major parties in the state, the Congress and the BJP have avoided fielding Muslim candidates.
In the 2013 Assembly elections, the Congress fielded only five Muslim candidates, four of whom lost. The BJP fielded only one, Arif Baig, who contested against Mr Aqueel in Bhopal North.
Since 1977, Bhopal North has always elected Muslim candidates, with the 1993 assembly elections being the only exception. Mr Aqueel has been undefeated from the seat since 1998.
The Congress and the BJP cite the same reason when it comes to giving lesser tickets to Muslims – winnability.
"We had given them tickets but they lost the elections. Ultimately it helped the BJP. Minorities are with us for sure, but they should be able to win the seat," Ravi Saxena, Congress spokesperson told NDTV.
Somewhat similar views were voiced by a local BJP leader. "We had given them tickets last time as well. We had Muslim lawmakers and ministers too. But we have different parameters for giving tickets. Those who are in a position to win will get tickets," said Shaukat Mohammad Khan, BJP leader and chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Wakf Board.
The number of Muslim lawmakers in the state has been declining since 1962, when seven Muslims were elected. Six decades later, in 2013, there is only one Muslim lawmaker in Madhya Pradesh. Other than Mr Aqueel, the last Muslim lawmaker Madhya Pradesh was Hamid Kazi of Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), who won from Burhanpur in 2003. Like Bhopal North, Burhanpur also has a significant Muslim population.
All the 230 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh will vote on November 28. The results will be announced on December 11 along with the other poll-bound states Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana.