After a bipolar and highly polarized UP assembly election, the CSDS-Lokniti has made public its findings that the ruling BJP, despite the general perception that Muslims vote against it, succeeded in securing at least eight percent vote of the community.
The Muslim vote comprises 20% of the electorate in UP. Of this, the Samajwadi Party secured around 79 per cent and at least eight per cent votes went to the BJP, which is an increase of one per cent over that in the 2017 Assembly elections.
Even if past surveys of the 2019 Lok Sabha election results are any indication, despite the high-decibel anti-Muslim rhetoric, there is a perceptible rise in the community vote for the BJP.
According to a survey of ‘Religion, Caste, Nationalism and Attitudes in India,’ conducted by the US-based Pew Research Centre, 20 per cent of the Muslims voted for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “In other words, one out of five Muslims voted for the BJP,” the survey noted.
A CSDS-Lokniti survey of 2019 had indicated 14 per cent support for the BJP. When CSDS posed a question to the community before the 2019 Lok Sabha election on whether they supported another term for the Modi government, 26 per cent Muslims said “yes”, whereas 31 per cent of the Hindu respondents felt that the government should not get another term.
With a substantial percentage of Muslims quietly supporting the BJP, the party’s narrative that the community is anti-BJP and should join the ‘mainstream’ appears to be misplaced.
These surveys indicate that the community is willing to support the BJP, but that there has to be a reciprocal “two-way traffic” and the BJP’s posturing that it stands for ‘vikas of all’ should translate into action.
Owing to the perceived political irrelevance of the Muslims since 2014, because of the counter-mobilisation of Hindus, there is again concern within the community over the futility of extending support to the anti-BJP formations in the state.
Many political observers suggest Muslims should increasingly explore the possibilities of opening up to the BJP. It is reasoned that supporting the non-BJP governments (SP, BSP, Congress) out of fear, stemming from the much-publicised BJP bogey, has not helped the Muslims, as their socio-economic condition has gone from bad to worse over the decades.
“The community’s condition is worse than that of the Dalits,” the Sachar committee report had noted.
There is a feeling in the community that they will have to revisit their strategy of “tactical voting” against the BJP, as has been drilled into their minds by the Opposition parties.
So, they will have to stop treating the “secular” formations as their messiah and the BJP as their arch enemy. There is no doubt that Muslims have benefited as much as Hindus from the various welfare schemes during the last five years in UP. But still, they are not gung-ho about the idea of reciprocal support to the BJP during elections. This mindset has to change, it is pointed out.
The problem with Muslim thinking is that it is moulded by the hardliners within the community. It gets swayed by the anti-BJP rhetoric and shoots itself in the foot by pledging support to whoever seems capable of beating the saffron brigade.
But, this polarisation doesn’t give the desired dividend to parties chosen by the Muslims as their benefactor. In the end, their support turns out to be a kiss of death for the anti-BJP formations.
Therefore, the community should not be concerned about the demise of the so-called secular parties, it is pointed out. Their concern should be about the increasing irrelevance of their votes in the Hindi heartland.