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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Muslim Vote: Not Swept Up In Modi Wave Or Rahul Mania

By Sanjay Malik | INNLIVE

In an election where the most prominent prime ministerial candidate is the starkly polarising Narendra Modi, it follows that the behaviour of the Muslim voter could have a telling impact on the eventual outcome. 

Whether the Muslim vote consolidates clearly against the BJP, whether Muslim voters in constituency after constituency vote carefully and tactically with the only objective of denying a victory to the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, this could be key to how far the NDA finds itself from its the magic number of 272 MPs on May 16. 
Needless to say, Congress party president Sonia Gandhi's overtures to the Muslims, her meeting with the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid and her plea that Muslims must vote strategically, must be seen in this context.

A compilation of INNLIVE survey data from various states shows that, overall, the Muslim vote is quite definitively continuing to tilt away from the BJP. Reports that leaders and groups from the Muslim community have been reaching out to others in the community to ensure that non-BJP candidates are elected to prevent "an RSS-influenced government" from coming to power indicate that such appeals could also alter Muslim voters' mindset from now until polling day. (The Shahi Imam has made a very public appeal in favour of the Congress earlier today.) 

Though it's unclear just how deep the influence of such leaders is, that Indians often tend to change their mind closer to voting day, in order to cast their votes for a candidate they think stands the best chance could also impact the BJP tally eventually.

According to data compiled from the state-specific surveys in March, the current trends are quite clear -- where the contest is clearly a two-horse race, there is no doubt that the BJP finishes last among Muslims. In Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan or Gujarat, where there is a more or less bipolar contest, the Muslim vote is quite clearly in favour of the Congress, and definitively so, by a more than convincing margin. 

In Maharashtra, 84 percent of Muslim respondents said they would vote for the Congress or its ally, the NCP. The BJP gets five per cent of the Muslim vote here. In Rajasthan, a more sizable percentage of Muslims appear willing to give the BJP a chance, with 18 percent favouring the BJP but the large majority, 68 percent, still going in favour of the Congress. In Modi's Gujarat, 80 percent of Muslim respondents said they would vote for the Congress while 15 percent favoured the BJP. In Madhya Pradesh, 92 percent Muslims said they would vote for the Congress. 

In Karnataka, 87 percent Muslim respondents said they would vote for the Congress, a small 3 percent said they would pick Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (S), the remaining 10 said they would go with the BJP. That the Muslim voter will look for options wherever available is proven more clearly than anywhere else in Delhi, where the data shows that while only 7 percent of Muslim respondents said they would vote for the BJP, the Congress gets only 56 percent -- the Aam Aadmi Party has claimed the remaining 37 percent of the Muslim vote in the capital. 

Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, where there is a large number of Muslim voters, and where there are more options available, it appears that the Muslims could vote tactically, but in favour of one of several other options, possibly in favour of the non-BJP candidate most likely to win. So, in Uttar Pradesh, the anti-BJP Muslim vote is fractured between SP (34 percent), BSP (23 percent) and Congress (21 percent). 

The absence of a seat-sharing agreement between the Congress and either the SP or the BSP could clearly impact the consolidation of the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh. While the BSP is reportedly aggressively wooing the Muslim voter, the Shahi Imam reportedly denied support to Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, instead appearing more inclined to back the Congress-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance in the state. 

How much respect the Shahi Imam's word commands may be known only on polling day. Similarly, in Bihar, though there's a surprising 22 percent Muslim vote in favour of the BJP, the Congress gets 57 percent and JD (U) gets 10 percent. In West Bengal, the BJP gets only 5 percent of Muslims' votes, but the Congress too does not fare very well, projected to get 28 percent while the Trinamool Congress gets 35 percent and the Left gets 26 percent. 

The trends are not complete, as data is not available for each state. The methodology details also reveal what is the percentage of Muslims in the sample size for every state. 
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