Election results 2014: Reverse polarization is why Muslim votes did not count in UP and Bihar

Despite a concerted effort by "secular" parties to get Muslims to vote en bloc against BJP, the saffron challenger prevailed largely because of what is being called "reverse polarization".

In both UP and Bihar, which have a significant population of Muslims, the BJP pulled off big wins. Talking to TOI after the results were declared, BJP general-secretary Amit Shah said his party succeeded "because the number of people who are not part of the politics of vote bank are much more".

As per the 2011 Census, Muslims are nearly 15% of India's 1.2 billion people. In 35 seats, they number around one in three voters or more. In 38 other seats, Muslims are 21-30% of the electorate. If the 145 seats where they are 11-20% are added to this, Muslim voters have the ability to influence the outcome in 218 seats. UP and Bihar, which have 120 seats between them, have 18% and 16% share of Muslims respectively. So the "secular" gamble was not unreasonable.

In UP alone, out of 80 seats, 32 have a Muslim population of close to 15% or more. Yet, despite a serious pitch as the only force that could stop Modi, SP won only two seats, with 30 going to BJP.

Curiously, the saffron party swept all eight constituencies, including Saharanpur, Amroha, Shrawasti, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad and Rampur, where the Muslim population hovers around 40%. For the first time since Independence, UP has no Muslim MP.

The trend is similar in Bihar where out of the 17 seats where Muslims have more than 15% of votes, BJP has won 12. The remaining five have been shared by the RJD-Congress-NCP combine and JD(U) which has got one seat.

Even in Maharashtra, which has Muslims constituting 14% of its population, BJP and its allies have swept the polls winning 42 out of 48 seats. The combine also won all the seats with considerable Muslim voters. In Mumbai and other Muslim-populated areas across Maharashtra, low polling in Muslim pockets and votes split between Congress-NCP and AAP made Muslim votes ineffective.

"In the Muslim-dominated Govandi area of Mumbai North-East polling was 40% while in the Gujarati-dominated Mulund, in the same constituency, it was 60%. And Muslim votes got divided between AAP's Medha Patkar and sitting MP NCP's Sanjay Dina Patil. This gave BJP's Kirit Somaiya a comfortable win," said Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party councillor from Govandi.

Pollsters, going by trends of past elections, say the Muslim vote is most effective where it is around 10% of the electorate, big enough to sway the result in a multi-cornered contest, by consolidating for a single candidate. Ironically, where Muslim presence is over 20%, their votes have been mostly ineffective. This is because of a multiplicity of Muslim candidates that divide their votes. In such constituencies, say psephologists, there is often counter-polarization of Hindu votes. In a polarized UP, it's the latter that seems to have helped the BJP. "In the future, Muslims will have to change their strategy and keep their options open," said M A Khalid of All India Milli Council.

Courtesy: Time of India


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