Vote fragmentation and reverse polarisation have often helped BJP win at Muslim-dominated seats in UP

Muslims voting in the name of religion or in herds is just a perception. Vote split and reverse polarization are major factor in BJP's victory

Representational Photo
Representational Photo

Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

Muslims are perceived to be smart voters, voting tactically in favor of their candidates. Psephologists and the politicians claim, for years they outsmarted Congress after the emergency and BJP after the Babri Mosque demolition. But data suggests a different story. Analysis of 2017 assembly election data suggests, BJP routed the secular parties in most of the Muslim-dominated seats, and the obvious reason is the split of vote.

What happens of seats with a sizeable Muslim population is an interesting research topic. The political parties see winnability in Muslim candidates while deciding the tickets for constituencies with a Muslim share in population above 40 per cent. There is nothing wrong, considering the history of social engineering and alliances in the state. There were times when this formula worked effectively, even on seats where the Muslim population is less than 40 per cent, but more than one-third of total electorates. But that’s the tale of good, old secular politics days.

Uttar Pradesh has even witnessed a victory of a Muslim candidate on seats like Gorakhpur (Urban), now termed a formidable fortress of Saffron forces. Now, they lose seats like Badayun, Hasanpur, Naugawan Sadat, Moradabad, Kanth, Kithor, Mirapur, Nakud, Deoband, Gangoh, Thana Bhawan, Badhapur, Noorpur, Chandpur, Siwal Khas, Baghpat, Sikandrabad, and Bulandshahar too. No seat is a safe seat for a Muslim candidate in Uttar Pradesh after a 2014 debacle on Lok Sabha seats like Rampur and Sambhal.

On approximately 60 seats with more than 35% Muslim population, BJP triumphed on 37 in the 2017 assembly elections. This may surprise many, specially those who feel Muslims vote in herds and en masse in favor of a single candidate of their choice. This theory has been busted several times, whenever there is more than one Muslim candidate or a Muslim candidate challenging a strong secular candidate. There are so many examples.

During the 1996 Lok Sabha Elections, Pratap Singh Saini, former BJP MLA, and the active participant of the Ram Mandir movement was preferred by the voters of Amroha Lok Sabha over a Muslim candidate of BSP. The same Muslim voters supported Rashid Alvi of BSP in 1999. In the 2004 election, a large chunk of Muslims favored independent Harish Nagpal, defeating Maulana Mahmood Madani of RLD. So, Muslims voting in the name of religion or in herds is just a perception.

But, how does BJP manage to win the Muslim-dominated seat is an interesting story. “It’s a very simple story. They work on vote split and reverse polarization,” claims Ashish Pushkar, a social activist from Amroha, while adding that non-Muslim voters in Muslim dominating constituencies vote in blocks to defeat a Muslim candidate out of fear generated by rightists. “It is easy to polarize non-Muslim voters in such constituencies”, he adds.

Most of the time, the political parties engaged in secular politics announce Muslim candidates on such seats. “It is because they don’t want to lose their claim on Muslim votes. Also, they have extra pressure from Muslim organisations and social groups to maintain a certain number in their list, irrespective of considerations for winnability,” says Dr. Naseem Ashraf, former president of AMU Students Union.

This can be understood by the tickets declared in UP so far. BSP has declared 40 tickets for Muslims in 113 seats going to poll in the first phases. Samajwadi Party has approximately 20% Muslims on its list for the first two phases. Congress has announced around 30 names in its first two lists of candidates.

This is in addition to Muslim candidates fielded by the parties like AIMIM, Peace Party, Rashtriya Ulema Council, Parcham Party, and SDPI. This has left more than one Muslim candidate on most of the seats with minorities above 25% of the total votes in the constituency.

The result is evident. Many of these seats are going to witness the same fate Sikandrabad (Bulandshahar) and Nakur (Saharanpur) met in 2012, and Naugawan Sadat (Amroha), Chandpur (Bijnor), Mirapur (Muzaffarnagar), Charthawal (Muzaffarnagar), Moradabad City, and Deoband (Saharanpur) in 2017. BJP is again eying a vote split and the reverse polarization. Muslim candidates, themselves are making this task easy for the BJP.

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Published: 24 Jan 2022, 5:30 PM