Did Gujarati Muslims vote for the BJP?

By Kashif-ul-Huda, TwoCircles.net

Question in everyone’s mind was not whether BJP will win in Gujarat election but what will be their victory margin? And also whether Muslims of Gujarat will vote for BJP? – Both these questions were very important for Narendra Modi to project himself at the national stage.

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In terms of seats it has been a downward slide for BJP. The saffron party won 127 seats in 2002 which got reduced to 117 in 2007 and 115 in 2012. Vote share for BJP also shows a slight decline in the last 10 years; from a close to half of all votes polled in 2002, BJP could manage to get 48% of all votes in 2012. So on the first question, Modi is stuck with a drop in both vote shares and number of seats.

Some Muslims in Gujarat have warmed up to the BJP, but how many of them voted for the saffron party? [TCN Photo]

Second question is not that easy to answer as there is no way to tell how one individual voted. There are some exit polls that also count voters’ religion but given how off the exit polls have been in predicting Gujarat election, it is best to ignore those numbers and look at actual votes polled and do some analysis based on available data.

There are 34 Assembly seats in Gujarat where Muslims are at least 15% of the population. BJP won 21 of these seats, Congress won 12 and Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) managed to win one seat. If we look at percentage of seats won then it is BJP 62%, Cong 35%, and NCP 3%. Compare this to all the seats won at the state-level by parties at 63%, 34%, and 1% respectively, and you will see that BJP is at a slight loss here.

For a tighter analysis, if we just look at seats with Muslims share in population 20% or higher then we are left with just 15 seats. BJP still captures majority of these seats but Congress performance improves significantly. BJP won 9 seats (60% of 15 seats) while Congress with 6 seats improve their performance to 40% wins. In terms of number of votes also Congress does better in these 15 seats when compared to their state-level performance. Congress captures 41.4% of all votes polled here which is an improvement over all Gujarat vote share of 40%. BJP which received 48% of state votes reduces their share in these 15 seats to get 46%.

It is not lost on me that even here BJP is definitely getting more votes and seats than Congress but latter’s performance improvement in these seats is important to note. If take this analysis further and look at four seats that have more than 40% Muslims in the population then Congress is on an equal footing with BJP with both parties winning two seats each and even in vote share Congress with 44.3% is head to head with BJP’s 45%. That too when Jamalpur-Khadia, a Muslim majority seat saw a triangular contest with two Muslim candidates fighting it out and giving BJP an additional seat in the process.

Congress gave ticket to 7 Muslims while BJP had no Muslim as its candidate. If we look at seats where Congress Muslim candidates were contesting, we can see that except in Jamalpur-Khadia where Muslim votes got split between two Muslim candidates, Congress nominees manage to get more votes than Muslim share of the population there. Given the polarized communal situation in Gujarat it is difficult to imagine that Muslims of those areas overwhelmingly voted for BJP and other communities replaced those numbers by voting overwhelmingly for the Muslim Congress candidate.

However, this does not mean some Muslim did not vote for the BJP. Let’s look at Jamalpur-Khadia a bit closely. This seat estimated to have 61.3% of Muslims, of the total 10 candidates trying their luck on this seat, seven were Muslims. If total the number of votes polled by all Muslim candidates then it comes out to be 60.4% votes, very close to their share in the population. Of course these seven Muslim candidates or at least the Congress nominee must have attracted some non-Muslim votes too so the percentage of Muslims voting for BJP should be higher than 1%.

Bharuch is the only seat from our list of 34 where Congress candidates polled (35.5%) less than the Muslim share in the population (38%). BJP won this seat by polling 59.5% of votes indicating clearly that Musims here voted for BJP but difficult to say if Muslim votes for BJP crossed more than a single digit percentage.

Unfortunately, other six seats with Muslim Congress candidates also give no clue as to what percentage of Muslim may have voted for BJP. In all those seats combined total of votes polled by all Muslim candidates is higher than their share in the population in those areas. This suggests that in fact, Muslims candidates were able to attract some non-Muslim voters. But then we have examples of Murtuza Khan Pathan in Vejalpur who lost the election with a margin of over 40,000 votes as he failed to get enough support from outside his religious community. And then there is Javed Peerzada who won from Wankaner capturing 39% of all votes polled even though Muslims in that are only 23%. Similarly, Amir Ali Lodhiya in Bhuj managed to win 39% of the votes when Muslims are just 15% there. However, he lost by a margin of 8,973 votes.

So did Muslims vote for the BJP? There is nothing in the data to suggest that Muslims voted for BJP in any significant number but there is an ample evidence to suggest that Congress benefitted more in those seats where Muslims had a significant presence.