Muslims Becoming Electorally Irrelevant in Gujarat

Date:

The failure of opposition parties in thwarting BJP's game plan is paving the way for a one-party rule in the country. As far as Muslims are concerned, they must realise that their dwindling numbers in the poll outcome make a pre-poll strategy to ensure their victory, or else they may soon become inconsequential in the electoral politics of India

Syed Ali Mujtaba

THERE is a lone Muslim MLA in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, for which elections were held recently, even though Muslims constitute about 9 per cent of the state’s population. 

Imran Khedawala of the Congress retained the Muslim-majority Jamalpur-Khadia Assembly constituency in Ahmedabad, winning by a margin of 13,658 votes. He defeated his nearest rival, Bhushan Bhatt, of the BJP.

Overall, the ruling BJP won a total of 156 seats and the Congress just 17 seats. Other parties that made pre-poll noises could not win a single seat, making a mockery of their tall claims.

Most disturbing trend

The most disturbing trend in the Gujarat elections was that Muslims in the state are seen to be fast becoming electorally irrelevant. In more than 25 assembly constituencies where Muslim votes are considered decisive, they could merely win one seat. The BJP won in 17 of the 19 constituencies that have a sizeable Muslim population. Others, including the AIMIM, and the Aam Admi Party could nowhere come close to the winning margin of the elected candidates.

The victory of the BJP is remarkable because it did not field a single Muslim candidate in the elections. The last time the BJP fielded a Muslim candidate was way back in 1998. This certainly points to the fact that the BJP wants to decimate the Muslim community electorally and make it inconsequential in the number game that is based on a majority of votes, even at the risk of defying the logic, the spirit of democracy, and electoral practices.

Plan to decimate Muslims

The plan to decimate the Muslims has, more often than not, become overt time and again in different elections, both at the national and regional levels. Accordingly, Muslims are being deprived of their share in the country’s political milieu, even though they constitute over 14 per cent of the population.

The slogan ‘Sab ka sath, sab ka vikas and sub ka vishwas’ has proved to be a BJP facade that is misleading the 20 crore Muslims who are falling into its trap and seeing the saffron party as its saviour.

Muslims in Gujarat constitute about 9.97 per cent of the state’s population. If democracy is at fair play Muslims can get at least 18 MLAs in the state assembly. But the 2022 election results have given them only one seat with the message that they are on the verge of becoming electorally extraneous in Gujarat.

The declining trend of Muslim representation in the state assembly is systematic. In 2002, only five Muslim candidates won. In 2007, only three were successful. In 2012, only two Muslim candidates won. In 2017, the number was three and in 2022 it is just one.  The best result was in 1980 when 12 Muslim candidates won.

Blame it on Muslims

The blame game among the Muslim electorate in Gujarat is on the division of votes due to the fact there were several political parties in the fray.  The Congress, the Aam Admi Party, and the AIMIM all fielded Muslim candidates but none could win because of multiple candidates, many running as independents. This invariably split the Muslim votes giving the BJP a comfortable victory.

For instance, for the Limbayat seat, there were a total of 44 candidates, of which 36 were Muslims. The BJP’s candidate emerged victorious, winning over 52 per cent of the votes. Similarly, in Godhra, where a sizeable number of Muslims are present, a split in the Muslim vote gave the BJP’s candidate victory on a platter.

Role of AAP, AIMIM

Aam Aadmi Party candidates lost their deposits in almost all the 30-odd seats. AAP actually spoiled Congress’s chances. In several constituencies, AAP split the Congress vote thus immensely benefiting the BJP.

The same is the case with AIMIM which contested 13 of the 19 seats where Muslims are in majority but could not win a single seat. It was only in Bhuj that the AIMIM gained 17.36 per cent votes, but that was far behind the BJP candidate’s winning margin.

Here it needs to be reiterated that contesting elections is the right of political parties and independents. Blaming them for the defeat of the Muslim candidates is not going to give any solace to the community’s abysmal low representation. If Muslim votes are getting split they need to plug in such holes. They should not harm the Muslim community through reckless voting patterns and blame it on the split in votes as the reason for BJP’s victory.  

There is an urgent need that Muslims should arrive at a consensus candidate and vote for them en bloc to ensure that only a Muslim candidate wins. If such a kind of electoral strategy is not formulated during the pre-polling phase, none can stop the Muslims from becoming electorally extinct in the country.

BJP made election a farce

Notwithstanding this fact, the BJP has turned democracy on its head and has become a master craftsman in mustering the numbers in the game of electoral politics. Time and again BJP has won the polls by exploiting the chinks in the nature and character of democracy and emerged victorious, defying the popular sentiments.

Whether it is, the state election or national polls, the BJP has scripted victory one after another in most of the polls since 2014. This is due to better poll management, the use of state power to rig the EVMs, and stopping voters from exercising their franchise. These are some of the common malpractices discerned in every election in India.

Here it may be apt to mention that the recent Gujarat election saw an alarming increase in the voting percentage in the last hour of voting in various constituencies.  The Congress party has alleged that there was a 6.5 per cent increase on average in voting percentage in the last hour of polling. In some seats, the increase was 11.5 per cent which is humanly impossible.

The classic example was Vadodara where some seats witnessed a 10-12 per cent increase in voting in the last hour. This is an impossible feat because on average about 60 seconds are needed to cast a vote, but in Gujarat, votes were cast in less than 5 seconds. Modi hai to Mumkin hai!

Democracy exploited

Well, this is how democracy is exploited by the BJP which is a master in gaining a majority in each election in India. Time and again BJP has won hands down leaving the rest of the political parties blaming each other for cross-voting and handing over victory to the BJP.

This malady in the Indian electoral system of electing a majority is time and again exploited by the BJP but no political party has come forward to address this ill of democracy. Political parties expect the election commission to set things right. But, alas, the election commission has often been found to be at the beck and call of the ruling party.

The onus of upholding democratic values rests on political parties but so far they have failed to implement the dos and don’ts of the electoral process. They are indulging in the conspiracy of silence ensuring the victory of the BJP all the time. The failure of opposition parties in thwarting BJP’s game plan is paving the way for a one-party rule in the country.

As far as Muslims are concerned, they must realise that their dwindling numbers in the poll outcome must be arrested soon and they must make a pre-poll strategy to ensure their victory, or else they may soon become inconsequential in the electoral politics of India.

__________________

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com

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