Mayawati took everyone by surprise, after the results for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections were announced on 11 March, when she alleged that the EVM machines were tampered with to favour the BJP.
While she appears to be justifying her defeat, something about her allegation caught our attention: If the EVMs were not tampered with, how come the BJP won handsomely even in 12 seats with high concentration of Muslims?
Verifying Claims on Muslim-dominated Constituencies
Firstly, there is no publicly available data that provides for religion-based statistics at the constituency-level. Religion-wise census data is available only at the town-level.
So we considered the top 17 sub-districts that have more than 30 percent Muslim population. These districts with a total population greater than 3,00,000 included: Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Najibabad, Dhampur, Moradabad, Bilari, Sambhal, Rampur, Amroha, Meerut, Bulandshahr, Bareilly, Nanpara, Kaiserganj, Tulsipur and Utraula. Here is what we found.
The BJP won 53 percent of the 17 Muslim-dominated seats in the 2017 UP assembly elections.
BJP Lost Where Population Share of Muslims was High
- The average population share of Muslims was 45 percent, much higher than the state average of 17 percent.
- The BJP won only 53 percent of the seats, not 100 percent as claimed by Mayawati.
- The average vote share of the BJP was 36.9 percent in these seats, almost 5 percent lower than 41.6 percent vote share in the remaining seats where it won.
- However, the vote share of the BJP in the seats it won among these 17, is 43 percent, while its vote share is 30 percent in the seats it lost. That is because in the seats that the BJP won, the population share of Muslims is lower at 41 percent, and in the seats that the BJP lost, it is much higher at 50 percent.
- The BJP’s rate of conversion of Hindu votes is higher in these 17 seats than the rest of the seats. It is 67 percent in these seats versus 50 percent in the remaining seats.
- However, there is logic in this. In these 17 seats, the average number of Muslim candidates by the mainstream parties is 1.5. It is only 0.4 for the entire state of UP.
Split in Muslim Votes Clicked for BJP
- In seats where either the SP or BSP candidate belonged to the minority community, the BJP had given tickets to candidates belonging to caste that had the greatest leverage. For example, in most of these seats, the BJP had gone with OBC / MBC candidates.
- A section of Muslim voters also voted for the BJP, especially the women voters and the youth.
- In all the seats where the BJP won, the sum of votes polled in favour of the second and third candidate (BSP & SP) is higher than the BJP candidate. This implies that there has been a significant split in Muslim votes in these seats. If only one Muslim candidate would have been contesting, then chances of defeating the BJP would have been better.
- In most of the nine seats (among the 17) that the BJP won, both the SP and the BSP had fielded Muslim candidates. This seems to have confused the voters belonging to minority community.
- It's not easy to pick up the winning horse with 100 percent accuracy each time. Likely whisper campaigns by BJP candidates of polarisation among the minority community also led to large-scale counter polarisation among Hindus. A section of Yadavs and Dalits, the core voter of SP/BSP also voted for BJP in these seats.
Votes Polled in Muslim-Dominated Constituencies
- Deoband: BJP won by 1.02 lakh votes; BSP+SP combine received 1.28 lakh votes
- Nanpara: BJP bagged 86,000 votes; BSP & SP’s Muslim candidates received 93,000 votes
- Moradabad Nagar: BJP bagged 1.23 lakh votes; BSP+SP combine received 1.44 lakh votes
- Tulsipur: BJP’s Brahmin candidate bagged 62,000 votes; SP-Congress combine received 80,000 votes
- Kaiserganj: BJP won 85,000 votes; BSP’s Muslim candidate received 58,000 votes
SP & BSP’s Combined Vote Tally Exceeded That of BJP
For example in Deoband in Saharanpur district, BJP candidate Brijesh won by bagging 1.02 lakh votes. Both the BSP and the SP had fielded Muslim candidates who together won 1.28 lakh votes.
In Nanpara in Bahraich district, the BJP’s OBC candidate bagged 86,000 votes. The BSP and the SP’s Muslim candidates, when combined, bagged 93,000 votes, which is higher than the BJP. A similar pattern was observed in Bulandsahar, where the BJP bagged 1.11 lakh votes, while BSP and SP Muslim candidates got 1.12 lakh votes.
In Moradabad Nagar seat, BJP’s Vaishya candidate bagged 1.23 lakh votes while the two Muslim candidates of SP and BSP bagged 1.44 lakh votes in aggregate. In Tulsipur, BJP’s Brahmin candidate won by bagging 62,000 votes, while the SP-Congress Muslim candidates got 80,000 votes. Here both the alliance partners had fielded their own candidates.
In Utraula, the same story was repeated, BJP’s OBC candidate got 85,000 votes, while the BSP and SP’s candidate, got a total of 1.10 lakh votes.
In Kaiserganj, BJP won by bagging 85,000 votes. BSP which had fielded a Muslim candidate was second with 58,000 votes. Here SP had gone with a Yadav who was able to secure only 54,000 votes. This shows consolidation of M-Y votes didn’t happen as was anticipated by Akhilesh and Rahul.
To conclude, firstly, the BJP did not win many of these seats (with higher Muslim representation). In seats that it won, the population of Muslims is on an average much lower. Secondly, unlike the rest of UP, both BSP and SP offered nominations to Muslims. The BJP was clever enough to choose candidates who would attract the caste-based Hindu vote in constituencies where both the mainstream parties had fielded Muslim Candidates. However, this strategy failed in seats where the population share of Muslims touched around 50 percent.
Mayawati’s Strategic Errors
In other constituencies, the average number of Muslim candidates was far less, thus allowing the core vote (Yadavs and Dalits) to remain with either the SP or BSP. Therefore, there is no truth in Mayawati’s allegations as far as BJP’s victory in these 12 seats is concerned.
It appears that Mayawati made many strategic errors and one of them was offering a very large number of tickets to Muslim candidates. In the process, she appears to have alienated her own core caste-based vote, and failed to attract the upper caste and OBC vote which she had manged to consolidate in 2007 and lastly wreaked havoc for SP, in many places, by attempting to poach SP’s Muslim vote.
She made this even easier for the BJP by announcing her candidate list way in advance. BJP ensured that the candidates were able to exploit the split in the Muslim votes by placing a candidate from a community that may have been alienated either by the SP or BSP in that constituency.
Mayawati’s calculation to have more Muslim candidates seems to have damaged the SP and in turn also alienate her non-Jatav Dalit voters who went onto vote the BJP again.
Mayawati resorted to similar tactic when she had lost elections in 2012, blaming the Brahmins and Muslims for not voting for her. The CSDS post poll report showed that she gained support from the two communities and lost because a section of her core vote, the Jatavs, had shifted to SP, due to frustration by the Brahminisation of BSP.
Muslim Women and Youth Seem to Have Voted for BJP
As we observed, BJP performed well in these seats with high concentration of Muslims (>30% of population). Even in 2014 LS elections, BJP had swept all the seats with higher concentration of minorities by handsome margins.
In fact, for the first time in many years, not a single Muslim MP was elected to Lok Sabha from UP.
As per Today’s Chanakya, 10 percent of Muslims supported BJP in these elections. While this comes as a surprise, it’s possible, as the polling agency has accurately predicted BJP’s vote share. It appears that women voters and the youth have voted for BJP in large numbers. It is possible that the women see a saviour in Modi on the issue of triple talaq.
The young Muslim voters who have not witnessed the Babri demolition era are not able to related with this issue anymore. They want jobs and development and the secular parties have failed to do anything for their social upliftment.
UP Elections Have Changed the Rules for Muslims
The leads in 2017 elections indicate that number of Muslim MLAs will be reduced to one-third of their strength in 2012. The Muslim representation has been rising consistently since 2002, albeit still lower than the proportional representation which is about 80 seats.
In 2017, only 22 Muslim MLAs are expected to get elected. It is ironical that while the number of Muslim candidates kept on increasing, the ability to win has come down on account of alienating caste-based vote. By not announcing a CM candidate, the BJP has made itself accessible to all castes, and therefore did very well in mopping some of the core vote of the SP and BSP.
Proportional Representation refers to the percentage of Muslim MLAs compared to the total Muslim population in UP.
Minority appeasement politics (by announcing minority candidates just for the sake of it) is neither helping the secular parties nor the community. Political parties can no longer afford to look at the community as a vote block but enable them in improving their future prospects as well. The minority community also needs to introspect into its apathetic condition and save themselves from being treated as a vote bank. Muslims need to demand much more from the parties they support.
UP 2017 results resets how the Muslims see themselves in India’s politics. It is likely that there will be alignments (like the Muslims voting for Shiv Sena) in future and the so-called secular parties will not be assured of the Muslim vote, given the low conversion ratios in 2014 and 2017.
(This article has been co-authored by Amitabh Tiwari and Subhash Chandra. They are independent political commentators and can be reached at @politicalbaaba and @schandra_100 respectively. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)