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Why don’t Muslims vote for the BJP?

By Kashif-ul-Huda, TwoCircles.net,

“What percentage of Muslims will vote for the BJP?,” Dr. Zafar Mahmood was asked last week during his talk at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is a difficult question to answer as there is no data available regarding this but everyone agrees that it is not a huge numbber. But the question to be asked here is why a major national political party has failed to attract significant number of Muslims to its side?

Bhartiya Janata Party’s only Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee won from Lucknow five times and four of these times he got more than 50% of the votes polled. Many of those who voted for Vajpayee were Muslims voters because even at the height of the Ram Mandir movement Vajpayee kept his image of a moderate politician. This appealed to Muslims.

Gujarat govt. ad published in Patna dailies

If Vajpayee was moderate then Advani was considered to be the chief architect of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and therefore an extremist. Advani made no attempt to convince the Muslims otherwise except calling Jinnah a secular which will not make Muslims vote for him on either side of the border.

As if Advani was not extreme enough, BJP has selected Narendra Modi to be its candidate for the position of the Prime Minister. The same Modi which the party leaders blamed for costing them the 2004 election. He is the same Modi who presided over a genocide of over a thousand Muslims. Would Muslims who suspected Advani will now vote for Modi? Is the right-wing party serious about Muslim votes?

In 2010, barely a year after losing the second Lok Sabha election, Narendra Modi was to make a show of strength in Patna. This was his early attempts at coming at the national stage. There were full-page advertisements in various dailies of Bihar just a day before his arrival in the city. The ads quoted data from Sachar Committee report, same report that Gujarat government later claimed to be unconstitutional, to show that “Gujarat mein khush-haal Muslim.” One big problem of this advertising campaign was that one out of the three photos of the “khush-haal” Muslims was actually a photo taken in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.


The photograph in question was a photograph of Muslim girls learning computers taken by TwoCircles.net reporter Mumtaz Alam Falahi in Shibli National College in Azamgarh. Media made this the front-page news next day and the crores spent on Modi ad campaign was wasted. Fearing losing Muslim votes, Nitish refused to meet Modi and this attempt by Modi to paint himself secular or to convince Muslims of his good work in Gujarat ended in a big failure.

Gujarat Police

Gujarat government under Modi has not released data on Muslims of the state. So it becomes difficult to verify claims by BJP that Muslims of Gujarat are doing better than Muslims in other states. In fact, what little data is available does not show a very rosy picture of socio-economic status of Gujarati Muslims. For detailed analysis of available data click here.

One hears a lot about Muslims in Gujarat Police. It is true that share of Muslims in Gujarat Police jobs is better than other states but a closer look at data (which TCN collected and analyzed) reveals that Muslims are sparsely represented at higher ranks of police hierarchy and postings at lower level is highly skewed towards a few districts and departments.

“If we look at Muslim representation in individual police departments we find Muslims are under-represented in all of them except in departments such as State Traffic (26% are Muslims), Western Railways Vadodra (13%), Police Training School Vadodra (20%), Anti-Corruption Bureau (11%), and most importantly CID Crime (15.5%). There is no Muslim SI in Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and only 8 among 176 are Muslims (4.5%) in the Intelligence Department.”

This is a development model which treats Muslims as second-class citizens and keeps them at that position.


Emergence of BJP has negative consequence on Muslim representation in Lok Sabha and state assemblies. Look at all the states that BJP is either ruling or one of the major party- decline in Muslim political representation is closely linked to BJP rise in those states. UP returned highest number of Muslim legislators in 2012 Assembly election when BJP was relegated to the third position winning merely 47 seats with 15% of votes polled. Rise of BJP has unfortunately meant limited political space for Muslims since even Congress in that communal environment shy away from giving tickets to Muslim candidates as it happened in Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh.

In spite of this fact staring it in our face, BJP goes on to claim that Muslims in Gujarat are voting for BJP. This is a claim that is a bit difficult to verify but after the 201 assembly election we looked at the data and find 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.

During the last assembly election in Gujarat, we did talk to a few Muslim BJP supporters and it was clear that they are voting for the ruling party in the hope that it will get some work done in their area which has been neglected so far. This is not a democracy but a situation where voters are being held hostage and punished by withholding government services if they make the wrong political choice.

If this is the situation in Gujarat, the state that is supposed to be the showcase for BJP’s model of development then no wonder Muslims in other states will remain unconvinced of BJP regardless of whether Modi wears a Muslim cap or refuse to wear it while sporting all kinds of funny headgears in this campaign trail.

zafar Mahmood at MIT

Dr. Zafar Mahmood in his talk at MIT said that Muslims are not afraid of BJP but choice of Narendra Modi as the PM candidate makes us worried. He gave the example of absence of scholarship schemes in Gujarat for minorities that is running in all states including other BJP-ruled states. Mahmood who gave a presentation in front of Narendra Modi a few months ago said that Modi came up to him after the presentation and said that he will have no problem in running the scheme if Central Government gave 100% of the funds instead of 75% which is the norm now. When Zafar Mahmood pointed out that the same scheme is running in other BJP states, Modi thought for a while then he said, “unki baat aur hai.”

A clear indication that Modi’s policies are going to be more extreme than what is BJP’s policy. If Muslims were always wary of BJP, in Modi they have cause to be alarmed.



TCN series on Gujarat