September 21, 2015

The ‘Muslim Vote’ And Its Paradoxes

In this Outlook article, Praveen Chakravarty discusses the nuances of the voting equation between the BJP and districts with a significant Muslim population.


"There are various conjectures and beliefs on how voters of different faiths vote in India. There is one theory of a tempestuous relationship between BJP and Muslim voters. That the BJP tends to perform poorly in districts with greater Muslim population is a well-ent­renched idea. As per the latest census figures, Muslims make up 14.2 per cent of the overall population of India, spread across 640 districts. Of these, there are 100 districts where Muslims comprise over 20 per cent of the population. How does the BJP fare in these stronger Muslim districts vis-a-vis the rest? This analysis shows that the voting equation between the BJP and districts with a significant Muslim population is far more nuanced and complex than a simplistic negative correlation between the two...

Surprisingly (or perhaps not) the BJP’s voteshare actually increases in districts that have significantly more (1.5 times or more) Muslims than the average in that state. In other words, beyond a certain threshold, higher the percentage of Muslims in a district, the higher the BJP’s voteshare, at least in six out of these nine states. The average BJP voteshare in the last three Lok Sabha elections is 2-5 percentage points higher in these districts vis-a-vis the rest. Not only is the notion that the BJP voteshare is higher in districts with a stronger Muslim presence surprising, at least on the surface, but the magnitude of the difference in voteshare is significant enough to swing elections...

In India’s notorious first-past-the-post electoral system, where the winner does not need a majority of votes, consolidating voting blocs and splitting opponents’ votes can be more critical than any issue-based campaign. It remains to be seen if this strategy will serve the BJP well in the upcoming Bihar elections. There has been much talk about the Yadavs and the Kurmis of Bihar and their voting preferences vis-a-vis the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United) and the BJP. However, while Bihar’s overall Muslim population is 17 per cent, there are seven districts, making up 51 assembly constituencies, with over 20 per cent Muslim population. Spe­cifically, the top four Muslim districts—Kishanganj, Katihar, Araria and Purnea—are home to nearly half of all Muslims of Bihar. These are exactly the four districts that the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) will contest, ostensibly to consolidate non-Muslim votes as one bloc, besides splitting Muslim votes too."


Read the full article here.

Topic : State Capacity / In : OP-EDS
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