Voters in Bulandshahr | PTI
Voters in Bulandshahr | PTI
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As the 2019 election progresses, there are three questions people ask about the Muslim vote:  Are Muslims enthusiastic to vote this time? Do they want the Narendra Modi government to get another chance? And are they going to do ‘tactical voting’ to defeat theBJP pan-India?

The popular perception is that religious polarisation, the race for ‘Hindu votes’ and the declining number of Muslim candidates in the last five years has reduced the significance of Muslims as a decisive voting community. But does it have any direct relationship with Muslim voting preferences?

Do they believe in the power of the vote?  

CSDS-Lokniti’s pre-poll survey 2019 is a useful source to explore these questions. The survey was conducted in the last week of March 2019 among 10,010 respondents spread across 19states of India. Thirteen per cent of the respondents were Muslims.

Out of them, 85 per cent Muslims respondents said that they were likely to vote in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This overwhelming enthusiasm for voting confirms that the prevailinganti-Muslim environment does not affect Muslim participation in political processes. It simply means that Muslims, like other marginalised communities – particularly the SCs and STs – still believe in the efficacy of their votes.

Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

Also read: Contrary to belief, Muslims listen to Ulema but not when it comes to their election fatwas


Do they want Modi again?

Although the BJP has always been seen as a pro-Hindu party, it has nurtured a clear anti-Muslim image under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The Modi government’s reluctance to control violent Hindutva politics is a signifier of Hindu majoritarianism. Most of the Muslim respondents, like other religious minorities, do not think that the Modi government should be given another opportunity.

However, a straightforward Hindu-Muslim and/or the minority-majority framework cannot help us in making sense of this anti-Modi Muslim response.

We must remember that 31 per cent Hindu respondents also feel that Modi government should not get another term. On the contrary, 26 per cent Muslims are in favour of the Modi government. This figure is very relevant because it demonstrates that Muslims are the second largest set of respondents who want the Modi government to back in power.

Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

Are they going to defeat BJP?

The BJP has never been the first choice of Muslim voters in India.  According to the previous CSDS-Lokniti surveys, the Congress was the first preference for Muslim voters in the period 1996-2009. Although this trend continued in 2014, the Muslim vote share of the BJP increased quite significantly and went up to 9 per cent. The assembly elections that took place in the Modi era (2014-2018) also reveal that the BJP began to get some kind of electoral legitimacy among Muslims.

The recent pre-poll survey also confirms this trend. Although the Congress emerges as the main Muslim vote gainer, it does not affect the BJP’s prospects among Muslims. It reported that the BJP may get 14 per cent Muslim votes, which is going to be around 5 percentage points swing in its favour in comparison to 2014. In fact, the BJP is emerging as the second most preferred political choice for Muslims (along with BSP-SP combined).

Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

Also read: Muslim votes matter: Here’s how they voted for BJP after 2014


The party competition at the state level appears to be the most significant aspect that determines Muslim responses. The BJP would gain Muslim support in those states where it had a direct one-to-one contest with the Congress or any other party, especially in Gujarat. However, the regional picture this time might be quite different.

A majority of Muslims in Assam, Gujarat and Telangana clearly expressed their preference for the Congress. This trend exists in Bihar and Maharashtra as well, where the Congress is in alliance with other parties.

The BJP, on the other hand, is going to get the maximum Muslim support from three states—Rajasthan, Karnataka and West Bengal—where it did not have an adequate Muslim mass base in the past. The party is also likely to retain 14 per cent of Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh, which is equal to the national average.

Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

This highly diversified and apparently non-committed Muslim response signal two important political facts.

First, political parties are made of individuals—not ideologies. In this sense, the BJP has emerged as the most powerful party and not just because of its stated ideology of Hindutva. On the contrary, the party has expanded its social base in every part of the country because a large number of powerful regional leaders, who had their own electoral mass base, have joined it.

The decline of Left parties in West Bengal and the disintegration of the Congress in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (despite victory in the assembly elections) simply means that individual leaders of these parties have joined the BJP. These leaders continue to nurture their traditional Muslim support and as a result, the BJP is able to make effective linkages with Muslims voters.


Also read: Indian Constitution doesn’t call Muslims a minority, who turned them into one?


Second, the discourse of election, which is dominated by the anti-Muslim narrative, is different from the actual mobilisation of voters at the constituency level. My recent fieldwork in different parts of UP, Bihar, Haryana and Delhi confirms that Muslims at the constituency level are being approached by all parties, including the BJP. In such a scenario, the so-called ideological distinction between the BJP and others disappears, and a highly localised form of political bargain begins between the candidates and Muslims voters.

Muslim voters’ rejection of provocative Hindutva is an important aspect of contemporary Muslim electoral attitude. But they are, it seems, more intelligent than others because they know that elections are not contested in TV studios or in big rallies.

The author is a scholar of political Islam and associate professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. Views are personal.

This article is part of a series by the author on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and how Muslims vote. Read the others here.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Either you are stupid, or on congress salary. It seems you are indirectly lamenting the lack of a Muslim vote bank to arm twist political parties to see who licks their bum most. Unfortunately those who lick are nowhere close to forming a govt – one plausible reason. But second that I would like to believe is that they have seen development by Modi (yes something else he was working on when not lynching Muslims) and understand that they can vote as a citizen of India and vote for an all round better India for everyone!!!

  2. HILAL like many Muslims are lost.
    The partition of India was made along religious lines. Muslims got Pakistan and went onto a genocide and has wiped out non-Hindus except for a few that live in terror. Hindustan on the other hand retained the name India and made a country with a pledge to allow anyone regardless of religion to reside in India as CITIZENS of India.

    The key word is CITIZENS.

    If any person cannot live in India as its citizen, they are free to leave. OR SHOULD FACE REMOVAL. It is not a choice to throw a person into the sea or over the border or to behead the person; so I think the next humane choice for an anti-Indian who loves Pakistan more is “sterilize”. By sterilize I mean, remove the ability of the person to produce more of its hatred. As it is I would be all for a one child policy for Muslims to reduce them to the level of population as in 1947 when they supported Jinnah for a Muslim country and never left to go to that country.

    JAI HIND.

  3. If any Muslim votes for BJP, means Modi, she is just trying to buy peace and reprieve, and postponement of their personal misery and dangers, much like the Jews did, hoping against hope… please read some history before making a callous statement like BJP is the second preferred party. If my life and being is under constant threat, what does preference mean.
    Highly condemnible, your article and findings, which is like turning the screws into what is a tragic situation.

  4. The writer always continues to dilute the fanatical character of the Muslim community. Always avoid the genuine and perplexing questions arises in the mind of Hindus of this country,like their rapidly growing population, the question of Bangladeshi infiltrators, the dangerous Wahabism etc. Without answering these questions he can never be a convincing intellectual.

  5. You have not mentioned so many public welfare schemes that Modi initiated where Muslims are equal beneficiaries (Sabaka Vikas), like electricity connections, gas connections, toilets etc. etc. Muslims as a community should not have any grievance against BJP because all the schemes are implemented totally impartially.

  6. If Muslims said that they wanted the Modi government back, they must be pulling the leg of the guy/girl who was conducting the survey. Only idiots and research scholars have great faith in surveys in which questions are asked to know the OPINION of an INDIAN. I am an Indian myself, and I know that we all are basically liars. We don’t express what we think, we express what is considered “lofty thought”. We Indians are the MOST PRETENTIOUS PEOPLE in the world. We should only be asked questions like, “ghadi mein kitna time ho gaya hai, bhai sahb”. In this too, if he’s in a foul mood for whatever reason, he’ll reply, “ghadi banhd hai.”

    In the instance of this article, “fear” could be an added dimension.

    • Mr Bhatia, please speak for yourself and not for the rest of us Indians. After reading your note one can safely conclude that you are probably a Congressi and therefore lying is second nature to you

      • If you are Arjun, then I’m Krishn. Haha. Krishn-congressi, haha. Why is BJP not making a statue for ME, by the way?! Again divisive politics, Modi ka bachcha? Is there no other way you can rule?

        I normally lie, but in this I’m being honest : I am no congressi. I’m a one-man-party. No, one-man-band. Oops! Again I lied

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