Many people claim that Muslims have become politically irrelevant in India. Their argument is based on flawed premise that the BJP won in the general election 2014 with the largest ever majority in its history, despite Muslims voting overwhelmingly against it. The BJP, according to the same logic, won two third majority in UP assembly again in the year 2017 despite Muslims voting against it. These instances, according to some analysts prove that their voting wouldn’t make much of a difference in future elections.
There are several reasons why this theory is erroneous and has been spread with clear intention to deter Muslims from voting or at least erode their enthusiasm to vote. Muslims make more than 15 percent of the Indian population and they hold key in large number of seats in almost every major state throughout the nation. When votes are won and lost with difference of merely a couple of thousand votes even in Lok Sabha elections, lakhs of Muslims in almost every other constituency in UP, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and elsewhere cannot just swing the mood in favour of one party or candidate, they are deciding factor in more than two hundred seats across the country.
Declining margin of victory in elections
The smallest victory margin for any candidate in Lok Sabha election is held by Satyajit Gaekwad of the Congress. It was in the 1996 general election that the candidate from the grand old party defeated his main BJP rival in Gujarat's Vadodata district by a margin of just 17 votes.
17 votes seem to be a large margin compared to other results. In Karnataka’s Santhemarahalli (Sc) constituency in the 2004 assembly elections, JDS’ Krishnamurthy lost by a margin of just 1 vote. He polled 40751 votes, while the winner, Dhruvanarayan, got 40752 votes. In Rajasthan assembly election similar scenario emerged with senior Congress leader C P Joshi lost the election by just a single vote. Notwithstanding the propaganda unleashed across the country that Muslim votes no longer count, the small margins of victories suggest that in a democracy every single vote counts. It is said that Congress leader, Joshi lost by just a single vote as his driver and his spouse didn’t turn out to vote. Had they not taken his win for granted and came out to vote, he would have won the election.
Muslims population and their influence on particular seats
Muslims votes are not just deciding factor in many seats, they are the king makers or rather the kings on as many as 74 seats. In these 74 constituencies, Muslims make more than 20 percent of the population, making their votes lucrative for all the political parties. These are the seats, where Muslims can ideally win in straight or multi-cornered fights that we see these days. In Uttar Pradesh, from where 80 MPs are elected, there are at least 16 seats where Muslims make 50 to 20 percent population. These include Rampur (50 percent), Moradabad (41 percent), Saharanpur (39 percent), Bijnor (39 percent), Amroha (38 percent), Meerut (31 percent), Kairana (30 percent), Bareilly (29 percent), Muzzafarnagar (28 percent), Sambhal (28 percent), Domariganj (27 percent), Bahraich (23 percent), Kaiserganj (23 percent), Lucknow (23 percent), Shahjahanpur (21 percent), Barabanki (21 percent). It is surprising that not a single Muslim MP was elected on any of the above seats in an election where communal polarization seemed to be at its highest.
In Bihar there are at least nine seats where Muslims make from 70-20 percent of the population. These include, Kishanganj (67 percent), Katihar (38 percent), Purnea (30 percent), Araria (29 percent), Madhubani (24 percent), Darbhanga (22 percent), Sitamarhi (21 percent), West Champaran (21 percent), and East Champaran (20 percent).
Besides, there are many other seats where Muslim votes may tilt the balance in favour of a particular party or the candidate. There are as many as 145 constituencies where Muslims make 11-20 percent of the population and 183 seats where Muslims make 5-10 percent of the population. In a country where a seat can be won by a difference of a single vote, Muslims’ vote become crucial in all the above seats.
How division of Muslim votes play in the hands of BJP
The fact that in UP, Muslim candidates couldn’t win a single seat even from constituencies where Muslims make more than fifty percent of the population proves beyond doubt that Muslim votes get divided sharply between major parties including SP, BSP, Congress and other small regional parties and often those independents who are paid to cut votes. These independent, who are called vote katua, are often funded by the BJP or others. If we analyse the Muslim dominant seat of Sambhal in Western UP, we will find that the BJP walked away with an unlikely trophy as the division of Muslim votes among the Muslim candidates of SP and BSP ensured that BJP could win the seat with a very negligible margin of just over 5000 votes. The BJP got 34.08 percent votes, while SP got close to 34 percent and the BSP 24 percent votes.
Another constituency where the BJP won rather easily due to the division of SP and BSP votes was Ghazipur. The BJP won the seat by around 30,000 votes. The BJP will have no chance in case of the SP-BSP alliance. In the last election BJP polled 31.11 percent votes, while Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party polled 27.82 and 24.49 percent votes respectively. The same scenario was played in Rampur where Muslims make more than fifty percent of the total population. The BJP candidate walked away with an unlikely victory from a constituency where Muslims make more than half of the population. Strong candidates by the Congress, the SP and BSP ensured that BJP won the seat with a handsome margin. In Rampur, BJP's Dr Nepal Singh won the election by getting 358616 votes. Here Samajwadi Party's Naseer Ahmad Khan, who was the first runner up, secured 335181 votes while Congress candidate, Nawab Kazi Ali Khan, got 156466 votes and another Muslim candidate, Akbar Husain of BSP got 81006 votes.
It is certain that the saffron party will once again try to divide the Muslim votes not just in UP but across the nation. It will do so to counter the increasing possibility of Muslims uniting under the common umbrella of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh, under Mahagathbandhan in Bihar, TMC in Bengal, TRS in Telangana and Congress and its allies in the rest of the country. The division of Muslim votes directly helps the saffron party even in seats where Muslims make more than fifty percent of the population, as we saw in Rampur constituency of Rampur.
More columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:
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Asia Bi and the misuse of blasphemy law in Pakistan
Hashimpura massacre by police– Finally, a semblance of justice
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Modi with Syedna: PM's Muslim outreach is a lost cause now
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