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Research paper disproves Narendra Modi claim that more than 30% Muslims vote for the BJP in Gujarat

Counterview Desk
A new study has contradicted the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s claim that Muslims have voted for him in a very big way in Gujarat. Carried out by Raheel Dhattiwala, who was recently awarded PhD from the University of Oxford on her research on Hindu-Muslim violence in Gujarat, her fresh “policy paper” for the Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy says, much against Modi’s claims of “over 30 per cent Muslims” having voted for the BJP Gujarat in 2012, an analysis of polling booth data suggest that “the maximum voting for the BJP by Muslims was 10 per cent”.
Dhattiwala says in her paper, “The Puzzle of the BJP’s Muslim Supporters in Gujarat”, “This figure is not very different from Muslim voting for the BJP in Gujarat in the years prior to the violence”, adding, her fresh interviews suggested that “public support for the BJP among Muslims” further appears to have decreased ahead of the current Lok Sabha polls. “In absence of the BJP’s own inclusive politics to represent Muslims in the 2012 elections and with no tangible material benefits the social pressure to conceal misgivings about the BJP is likely to have reduced”, the scholar comments.
Dhattiwala’s analysis of booth-level voting in Ahmedabad suggests that affluent Muslims were more likely to vote BJP than poor Muslims. “The bounds on voting for the affluent range from 1 per cent minimum to 10 per cent maximum and for the poor the range is 1 per cent to 4 per cent”, she said, adding, she also found that that Muslims were marginally, more likely to vote BJP in booths where 2002 violence was higher. “In the Naroda Patiya neighbourhood, where 97 Muslims were killed in 2002, between 4 per cent and 8 per cent Muslims voted for the BJP”, she said.
The study seeks to analyse the findings and implications “partly on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2010 and 2012, during municipal corporation elections and state assembly elections respectively, and polling booth analysis for the 2012 Gujarat assembly elections.” She adds, “Of the 66 Muslims I interviewed in seven neighbourhoods of Ahmedabad during 2010 and 2012, 43 voiced their support for the BJP. However, a preliminary analysis of 11 polling booths for the 2012 elections revealed the possibility of lower electoral support for the BJP”.
The scholar further says, “Notably, upon interviewing 16 of the 43 prior supporters of the BJP again in 2014, a few months ahead of the Parliamentary elections, not all proclaimed the same enthusiasm for the party. Four respondents expressed regret at their previous choice.” Answering why Muslims are refusing to support the BJP, she says, following the the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom in March 1985, Rajiv Gandhi announced plans to rejuvenate Punjab’s economy and also released eight leaders of the Akali Dal detained in the context of rapidly increasing Sikh militancy.
Then, she points out, there was the Rajiv-Longowal Accord of July 1985 which “furthered a democratic solution to the Punjab militancy problem (Singh, 1991). In Delhi, Sonia Gandhi—widow and successor of the late Rajiv Gandhi—went around Sikh gurudwaras in Delhi in 1998 apologising for the riots. In a symbolic measure the Congress appointed a Sikh Prime Minister in the 2004 general elections who also apologised to co-religionists on behalf of his party.”
As for Gujarat, Dhattiwala says, a “similar demand of an apology from Chief Minister Modi has never been realised. There have also been few state-supported reconciliatory measures for Muslim victims of the violence—prosecutions and convictions in the 2002 massacres, including the life term awarded to BJP MLA Maya Kodnani for conspiring with attackers in the murder of 97 Muslims in Ahmedabad, were an outcome of the Supreme Court’s intervention and not the state government’s.”
Meanwhile, through his sadbhavna campaign, Modi began an effort to woo Muslims to fight on BJP ticket in local body polls. “In 2010, 12 Muslim candidates contested from the BJP when a Sunni Muslim candidate from the BJP won against a Hindu rival from the Congress in Rajkot. In local body elections in the same year, the BJP declared 117 out of 256 Muslim candidates from the BJP as victorious. The BJP announced its readiness to welcome ‘nationalist Muslims’ calling themselves a ‘pro-Hindu but not anti-Muslim party’.” But in 2012, none of the 182 seats were offered to Muslim candidates – seen by Muslims as “betrayal”.
What she particularly found interesting during her interviews was that all Muslim BJP party members and candidates she spoke with were “motivated by individual reward, e.g. career advancement through patronage with incumbent political leaders and future political front-runners whereas Muslim BJP voters/campaigners were guided by both material benefits and value-rational approaches.”
Dhattiwala quotes Suraiyya, who opted to live in the dismal Bombay Hotel slum in Ahmedabad outskirts following more than one attack in her old neighbourhood of Bapunagar in 2002. “In 2012 her reasons to fear for her life were no longer riots but the civic conditions of her infamous neighbourhood, situated contiguous to the city’s official municipal sewage farm in eastern Ahmedabad. A mountain of garbage visible from the slum had become an ironic landmark of the neighbourhood – this was the first feature of the slum I was taken to view from atop the terrace of a shanty”, she says.
“Along with her ordeals her political preference had also changed. She had recently joined the BJP as a party member. ‘Do we have a choice? We have knocked on the Congress corporators’ doors so many times but they shoo us away. How long do we keep drinking yellow water and die of dengue?’”
Then there was Aslam, who shifted allegiance to the BJP because the party “is in power and will continue to remain in power for the next 15 years … I cannot work with a dead party like the Congress. Both Congress and BJP have killed Muslims but the Congress has given nothing in return. At least the BJP intends to do something now for Muslims too.”
Dhattiwala quotes one Maqsood’s mother: “Allah jhooth na bulvaye (I would dare not lie in the eyes of Allah), I always voted for the Congress but this time in the civic elections I voted for the BJP! No one listens to the Congress so what’s the point of casting them our vote?” Indicating the importance of voting for the most likely contender to win the election, Maqsood said: “We are no longer in a Muslim ward. This is Kankaria… Hindu ward. Muslims are merely 5,000. Nobody among Hindus votes for the Congress so why should we?”

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