UP’s Muslim voters in search of lost relevance

Minority votes getting divided since 2014, leading to their declining clout and helping BJP.

Published: 10th January 2022 08:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th January 2022 08:18 AM   |  A+A-

voting, vote, elections

Representational Image (Express Illustrations)

Express News Service

LUCKNOW:  The Muslim vote is the most potent force in Uttar Pradesh around which the ambitions of every ‘secular party’ revolve. As per the 2011 census, the community forms around 19% of the population, capable enough to swing the political fortunes of all parties.

But that was until 2014 after which reverse polarisation neutralised the significance of the Muslim vote bank. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the hardcore Hindutva got a huge traction among UP voters. Coupled with it was some deft caste manoeuvring of the saffron brigade and it ensured a landslide win for the BJP. The support for BJP was so formidable that it left the Muslim vote almost irrelevant. It was a repeat show in both the 2017 Assembly and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

As a consequence, the number of Muslim representation has been dwindling since 2014. That year none of the Muslim candidate could reach the Lok Sabha from UP, in 2019, only six of them could win their seats. In the state Assembly, the number of Muslim MLAs was 63 in 2012, it slipped to 25 in 2017.

The trend shows that Muslim representation in the legislature is inversely proportional to the strength of the BJP. Whenever the BJP has had a clear edge over its rivals, the Muslim representation has declined. In the 1991 Assembly polls, when the BJP formed its first majority government in the state by winning 221 seats in a 425-member House, only 23 Muslim candidates could make it to the House, making only 5.4% of the total strength.

In corresponding years when the BJP lost power and became weak, Muslim representation went up. It rose to over 17%, close to their share in the state population. In 2012 when the Samajwadi Party won 224 of the 403 seats and made a majority government, 68 Muslim MLAs, the highest ever, made it to the Assembly. The BJP won only 47 seats that year.

In the current Assembly, Muslim lawmakers make only 6.2% of the total strength. It reflects the marginalisation of the community in policy-making. “It’s not only about numbers, the slide in the community’s representation also means almost no role for it in policy-making, which doesn’t augur well for almost one-fifth of the state’s population,” said Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangimahali, member, All India Muslim personal Law Board.

In the coming polls, Muslim voters appear desperate to re-establish their significance. The community doesn’t want to make any “mistake” that can lead to the division of their votes, helping the BJP as a 
result. For this to happen, Muslim leaders and opinion-makers need non-BJP parties to do well.
“They (the BJP) don’t even want our votes, let alone our representatives because their politics is to unite everyone against us,” said a Muslim academic at Aligarh Muslim University.

But how the community will ensure that their votes are not divided appears unclear to them also at this stage. “Defeating the BJP is a big factor. But not all Muslims are able to judge that accurately. Other factors also matter such as the candidate, the party, village level dynamics and local rivalries,” said a senior cleric of Darul Uloom Deoband. “Had all Muslims voted for one strong party, the BJP would not have come to power in 2017,” he added. 

The Muslim community has been banking on tactical voting. Most political observers believe the community waits till the last moment before voting for the strongest candidate to defeat the BJP. Tactical voting could become even more pronounced in this election following fears about the Citizenship Amendment Act. 

But some feel the tactical voting has been counter productive. “The community’s tactic to vote for the candidate best placed to defeat the BJP hasn’t worked in the past three elections. Therefore, it may unitedly support one party that is in a position to challenge the BJP. And it’s obviously the Samajwadi Party,” said Prof AK Mishra, a political scientist.

A major chunk of the minority community finds the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP to be the only party capable of taking on the BJP. But queering the pitch is the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen of Assaduddin Owaisi. 

“Owaisi has been able to convince a section of the Muslims that secular parties such as the SP, Congress and the BSP have used them merely as a vote bank, forgetting them after getting power,” said Prof Mishra.

 But Owaisi had fielded candidates in 2017 too, failing to win any seat. But he dented the prospects of several Muslim candidates fielded by secular parties by taking away a chunk of the minority votes, benefiting the BJP. There is a real chance of this being repeated in this election even as the Muslims search for a political entity that will unite their votes and stop the BJP juggernaut.


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  • Giri

    Representation in line with the numbers is reasonable and should be restored. However
    8 months ago reply
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