Jayanth Jacob and Gulam Jeelani, HT, New Delhi/Lucknow: It was the centerpiece for any political discussion. For months, experts feverishly analysed how the “Muslim vote” would impact elections in Uttar Pradesh and sway the results in favour of one party or the other.
But in the end, the BJP’s spectacular victory in India’s largest state swept away any remaining myth of the monolithic Muslim bloc vote.
The saffron party – which didn’t field a single Muslim candidate – won 31 of the 42 seats where the minority community comprised a third of the electorate, a strike rate of 74%. In 2012, the BJP had won eight and five in 2007.
The Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance won 10 and the Bahujan Samaj Party just one. Both formations had made a strong pitch for the minority community, with BSP chief Mayawati even using a Dalit-Muslim coalition as the central pitch of her campaign.
Take, for example, the town of Deoband that is home to the Dar-ul-Uloom, one of the tallest Islamic seminaries in the world. The BJP candidate cruised to victory in the constituency where Muslims are a majority.
Across Uttar Pradesh, the 2017 election marked a sharp decline in the number of Muslim legislators. Only 25 Muslim candidates won – 19 from the alliance and six from BSP – down from 67 the last time and 56 in 2007.
Another striking statistic was this: When the total voteshare for the 42 seats was collated, the BJP was found to have bagged 39.36% votes. This was way above 33.73% for the alliance and 18.61% for the BSP.
Experts say the results indicate that Muslims never vote in one single wave and that the persistent focus on the minority community’s influence might have consolidated the Hindu votes.
#”Average Indian Muslims vote the way average Indians vote. They are driven by mostly by the local considerations,” said Kamal Faruqui, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
He appeared to echo BJP president Amit Shah who said “a voter is a voter, there is nothing like a Hindu voter or Muslim voter.”
Others say the BJP’s strategy worked well to cancel the influence Muslim votes hold in key constituencies.
“The BJP negated Muslim votes through smart social engineering and polarization,” said Zafarul Islam Khan former president of All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat, the apex forum of Muslim organizations and institutions in the country.
“The victory of BJP signals triumph of hate and is not good news for Indian democracy.” (with inputs from Samarth Bansal)