I've been observing voting patterns for the last 5-6 elections, since the late 80s and early 90s. Earlier, even till around 2007, the BJP wouldn't get more than 5-7% Muslim votes. Even Vajpayee could only manage 7-8%. Imagine, the Congress party has effectively been reduced to zero in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In Bihar, Muslims moved away in hordes to the RJD and JD(U) as compared to a time when the Congress would get 80-90% Muslim votes. The same is true of UP, with the Samajwadi Party and the BSP. The BJP took advantage of this, with the Muslim vote being divided.
Madhya Pradesh is a state with not a huge Muslim population -- similar to Gujarat -- at about 10%.
Seven years ago, a very senior BJP leader told me that the problem with the Muslim community is that the Congress doesn't work for them as it knows the community won't go anywhere else, and the BJP doesn't do work for them as the community doesn't vote for them. The day the Congress realises you won't vote for them, and the BJP realises that you will, your (the community's) fortunes will change.
Question to Congress is, in 230 Madhya Pradesh seats, you want 90% Muslim votes. How many tickets did you give the community?
In 2012 Uttar Pradesh elections, for the first time, 72 Muslims got elected. But they were barely given anything, apart from minority finance department.
In the recent Bihar elections too, the Mahagathbandhan pitched for Muslims (19% voters) and Yadavs (15% voters), but in ticket distribution, they gave Muslims half as many seats as the Yadavs. Similarly, during portfolio allocation, just one Muslim RJD leader was given anything of note -- the Finance portfolio -- though even in that case the real implementation powers were kept with the Chief Minister.
Now, however, the Muslims have understood their game -- They will take our votes but will not give political powers. They will do what BJP is doing, though in the BJP's case at least it's open about it. These people win using Muslim votes but they don't give anything in return. Muslims aren't going to fall for it anymore. They no longer have any incentive to vote for Congress and equally, have no incentive to defeat the BJP.
Narendra Modi had a big plan for Gujarat. For the first time, in 2012, the BJP got 33% of the Muslim vote because of Modi and in 2014, the BJP got 15% of the Muslim vote all over India. If the BJP only gets 20-25% of the vote, that will increase the overall vote-share by 3%. BJP only needs about 25% of the Muslim vote and the Congress' game will be up.
The Muslims are unlikely to get enticed by the Congress any longer. Had they wanted 90% Muslim votes, they should have given at least given 23 tickets. Instead, they barely gave any. It is true that if 90% Muslims vote for the Congress then they can beat the BJP because 150 Lok Sabha seats in the country are such that Muslim votes can make a difference. Muslim voters can't win on their own but they certainly can make others lose.
The Modi factor changes things, however. Because of Modi, between 2014 and 2017, in the 8 Muslim majority seats in Gujarat, the BJP won 6. Clearly, the Muslims will not fall for rhetoric. They know that the Congress will do the same that the BJP also does -- the Congress won't come to power and give the Muslim community anything, so how is the Congress any better than the BJP? This idea is gaining currency among Muslim youth -- what do the SP, BSP and Congress give us? They're not giving political empowerment, only seeking votes. This thought process is in vogue, particularly in educated youth and businessmen. Equally, the Congress is between the devil and the deep sea. If may speak of soft Hindutva, but if I want to vote for Hindutva, why won't I vote for the BJP -- the real thing?
(The views and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Republic TV/ Republic World/ ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd.)