Indian Elections: Do Muslim Votes Matter? – OpEd


As the world’s largest democracy, India’s elections are a complex and fascinating subject. With over 900 million eligible voters, the outcome of Indian elections can have far-reaching consequences not only for the country but also for the region and the global community. One of the most intriguing aspects of Indian elections is the role played by the Muslim community which constitutes approximately 14% of the total population. 

India’s electoral process, spanning seven phases over 44 days, is fraught with communal tensions. The gap between the majority Hindu population and the minority Muslim community has widened over the past decade under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu right-wing government. Trust between communities has eroded, and politicians often make divisive claims to secure votes. 

The Significance of Muslim Votes

Muslims in India have traditionally been seen as a crucial vote bank, with political parties often tailoring their manifestos and campaign strategies to appeal to this community. The sheer size of the Muslim electorate coupled with their concentration in certain states and constituencies makes them a force to be reckoned with. In states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala, Muslim votes can tip the balance in favor of one party or the other. 

Muslims in India have traditionally voted for the Congress party which led India’s freedom struggle and ruled the country for the longest period. However, Muslim-oriented parties like the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), All India Majlis Ittehad-e-Muslimeen (AIMIM), and regional parties in states like Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshadweep also enjoy significant support in their respective areas. 

Secular parties active in states with higher Muslim concentrations, such as the left parties, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar, and Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, have also been recipients of Muslim votes. 

Despite constituting around 15 percent of India’s total population, Muslims are distributed unevenly across electoral constituencies, curbing their ability to effectively organize. In 405 out of 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, their proportion of the total population is less than 15 percent. In other words, in almost 75 percent of the country’s constituencies, Muslims wield minimal influence over electoral outcomes. 

Conversely, there are approximately 94 constituencies where Muslims comprise between 15 and 30 percent of the population, and about 44 constituencies where they make up more than 30 percent, holding more potential to significantly impact electoral outcomes. 

However, the question remains: do Muslim votes truly matter in the grand scheme of things? With the rise of Hindu nationalism and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in recent years, some argue that the influence of Muslim votes has diminished. The BJP, which has been in power since 2014, has been accused of pursuing a Hindu-centric agenda and neglecting the concerns of religious minorities including Muslims. 

The 2019 General Elections

The 2019 general elections, which saw the BJP return to power with an even stronger mandate provide an interesting case study. Despite the party’s perceived anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies, such as the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the BJP managed to secure a significant number of Muslim votes in certain states. This raises questions about the factors that influence Muslim voting behavior and the extent to which religious identity alone determines their political choices. 

Slogans and Speeches of Prime Minister Modi and Other BJP Leaders

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders have been accused of using divisive rhetoric and hate speech against Muslims during their election campaigns. Modi has referred to Muslims as “infiltrators” and “those who have more children,” warning that the opposition Congress Party would redistribute the country’s wealth to Muslims. These comments have been seen as a bid to invigorate the BJP’s hardline base and have been criticized for targeting minority Muslims. 

Modi’s government has repeatedly been accused of targeting and discrimination against India’s estimated 200 million Muslims, who form the world’s third-largest Muslim population. 

The Future of Muslim Votes

As India is currently in the midst of the 2024 general elections, the issue of Muslim votes continues to be a subject of intense debate and speculation. Will the BJP be able to maintain its hold on a portion of the Muslim electorate? Will the opposition parties be able to consolidate the Muslim vote in their favor? Or will regional parties continue to play a significant role in determining the political fortunes of the community? 

One thing is certain: the Muslim vote is not a monolithic entity, and its influence will continue to be shaped by a complex interplay of factors, including religious identity, socio-economic status, regional affiliations, and individual preferences. Political parties that recognize this complexity and tailor their strategies accordingly may have an advantage in attracting Muslim votes. Regardless of the results, one thing is clear: the Muslim vote will continue to be a crucial factor in determining the future of India’s democracy.

Altaf Moti

Altaf Moti writes on diverse topics such as politics, economics, and society.

One thought on “Indian Elections: Do Muslim Votes Matter? – OpEd

  • May 18, 2024 at 11:07 am

    Barathia Janata Party is in English “Indian Peoples’ Party ” and NOT Indian Peoples Hindu Party. It is truly secular with Party members who are Hindus, Muslims, Christians and from other religious denominations. In a Hindu majority population naturally there will be more Hindus than members of other faiths. In the elections (State and Parliament) BJP has also fielded non-Hindu candidates and many of them have been successfully elected on BJP ticket.
    In contrast, IUML, AIMI and other like-minded parties are religious in name, character, in what they preach (Islam) and their members are exclusively Muslims (non-Muslims to them are deemed unbelievers).
    Many of their leaders are preachers in regular gatherings of the flock and they preach, what is considered by moderate Muslims, deviant Islam. Many of these Islamic leaders find it unable to relate to the young Muslims in the information age. To mask their inadequacy, they turn against other parties like BJP.
    The spectacular achievements across the spectrum in India by BJP leader Modi, also causes discomfort and envy to these religious parties and sometimes they join forces with forces abroad (religious and non-religious) to scuttle India’s spectacular achievements since Modi took control.


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