India’s Muslim Vote Bank – How it influence the electoral politics

Reality of the Indian Muslim Votebank: Influence over Political Dynamics

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As India gears up for the 2024 general elections, the role of the Muslim electorate, comprising 14% of the nation’s population, has become a focal point in political strategy. Despite their significant presence, Muslim representation in the 17th Lok Sabha remains disproportionate, with only 5% of MPs being Muslim. This gap highlights the complexities and challenges that define the political engagement of this community in India.

Underrepresentation in the Lok Sabha

The underrepresentation of Muslims in the Lok Sabha is striking. Although Muslims account for 14% of India’s population, they have only 5% of the seats in the lower house of Parliament. This discrepancy is particularly evident in the 86 parliamentary constituencies where the Muslim population exceeds 20%, and even more so in the 16 constituencies where it surpasses 50%. Despite these demographics, the BJP has made significant inroads in these areas, winning 15 seats in 2009, 38 in 2014, and winning 36 seats in 2019.

BJP’s Dominance in Key States

Uttar Pradesh (UP) is a critical battleground, featuring 23 constituencies with a Muslim population of over 20%. The BJP’s dominance in UP is evident from their performance in the 2014 elections, where they won 22 out of these 23 seats, conceding only 7 in 2019. This pattern suggests a consolidation of Hindu votes in response to a perceived strategic Muslim voting bloc.

Shifts in Muslim Voting Patterns

Recent electoral outcomes highlight a significant shift in Muslim voting patterns. In Bihar’s 2020 elections, 77% of Muslims voted for the Mahagathbandhan, reflecting a strategic alignment against the BJP. Similarly, in West Bengal’s 2021 elections, 75% of Muslims supported the Trinamool Congress (TMC), up from 51% in 2016. In UP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) saw Muslim support increase from 46% in 2017 to 79% in 2022. These shifts indicate a clear trend towards supporting parties perceived as strong opponents to the BJP.

Strategic Voting Amid Existential Threats

Amid concerns of an existential threat under the BJP government, Muslims are reportedly voting more strategically. In Bihar, despite having eight constituencies with over 20% Muslim populations, the NDA holds seven. This suggests that higher concentrations of Muslim voters might inadvertently strengthen Hindu consolidation in favor of the BJP.

INDIA Alliance’s Balancing Act

The INDIA alliance, comprising various opposition parties, faces the delicate task of attracting Muslim votes without alienating Hindu voters. Their candidate selection reflects this challenge: Congress has fielded 19 Muslim candidates, TMC 6, SP 4, RJD 2, Sena (UBT) 1 and both DMK and NCP none. This cautious approach underscores the political calculus that fielding Muslim candidates could potentially consolidate Hindu votes against them, while also risking division within the Muslim electorate.

BJP’s Outreach to Muslims

The BJP, despite historically receiving a small percentage of Muslim votes (4% in 2009, 9% in 2014, and 7% in 2019), has set an ambitious target of 15% for the upcoming elections. Their strategy involves capitalizing on intra-Muslim divisions—among Shia, Sunni, Sufi, and Deobandi communities—and focusing on the socio-economically backward Pasmanda Muslims, who constitute 57% of the Muslim population. The BJP has enlisted over 25,000 Muslim influencers as “Modi Mitrs” to promote the benefits of Modi’s governance for Muslims.

Implications for the 2024 Elections

The Muslim vote is expected to play a crucial role in the 2024 elections. As the community becomes more strategic in its electoral choices, the BJP’s outreach and the opposition’s balancing act will be critical factors. It would be interesting to see if Muslims see INDIA alliance as the single power against BJP in this election or they again remain divided between regional parties and national parties.

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