In absolute numbers, Uttar Pradesh has the largest Muslim population in the country. So much so that they can influence the electoral outcome in more than a fifth of the UP’s 403 seats.
Muslims strongly backed the Samajwadi party in the last election, but a host of aspects made the fight for minority-influenced seats more interesting this time around. In 2017, a counter-polarization of Hindu votes saw the BJP take the lead in several seats with a large minority population. Will 2022 see the same trend? Add the AIMIM factor to it this time.
Whether the tie-up with Rashtriya Lok Dal to court the Jats in Western UP will pay rich dividends will only be known once the results are released, but Akhilesh Yadav will also have to sweep minority-influenced seats to have a real boost in power. .
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And in a busy election where words such as “80:20”, “abba jaan”, etc. have taken center stage, and amid new campaigns to restore Krishna’s temple in Mathura, a mini-battle is being fought over the 85 seats where the Muslim population is between 25 and 50 percent.
These seats are spread across the 14 districts of Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad, Bareilly, Bahraich, Saharanpur, Rampur, Bijnor, Balrampur, Shravasti, Ghaziabad, Baghpat, Gautam Buddha Nagar and Jyotiba Phule Nagar. The Muslim population of the UP was just over 19% according to the 2011 census. And with 70% of Muslims backing the SP, Akhilesh may have a leg up in those seats with a starting base vote. between 17.5 and 35 percent. hundred, according to population.
In a triangular competition with Mayawati still a factor, even if he is not a contender, a 40% vote share in any seat is enough to register victory.
2012 and 2017: A contrasting study
In 2012, when the SP took power, it won 34 of those 85 seats. BSP won 23, BJP 16, INC 7, RLD 3 and the others 2.
In 2017, however, the BJP won 64, or 75%, of those minority-influenced seats. The SP could only win 16, the BSP and Congress 2 each, and the RLD only 1.
The BJP won a massive 21% vote share at the expense of all parties in 2017. While the BJP’s vote share was 40.4% in these seats, the SP and BSP won 23.4% respectively. and 20.9% of the votes. The BJP even won Deoband, considered an impossible Muslim stronghold for the saffron party.
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How the BJP swept away Muslim-influenced seats
The BJP was able to consolidate the Hindus. A kind of polarization has led to a counter-mobilization within the majority community.
Other factors include a split in minority votes, as the SP and BSP together garnered more votes than the BJP in most of those seats. Part of the minorities (less than 5%) also voted for the BJP.
The data shows that while the SP performed well where the minority concentration is high (>40%), the BJP swept the seats with moderate concentration (25-40%).
Had the SP run in alliance with the RLD and not the Congress in 2017, it would have won 25 seats and the BJP 58, as the Jat factor plays a role in 33 of those constituencies. In these seats, the Jat population varies from 5 to 25%.
The SP-Congress alliance garnered 70% of Muslim votes according to the Axis My India post-poll survey. However, the survey overestimated the alliance’s overall vote share by 5%. This means that minority support for the alliance was less than 60% by my calculations, which translates to 50% for the SP and 10% for the Congress.
In 2022, most surveys predict a 70-75% Muslim consolidation in favor of SP. This means that around 5% of votes can be acquired by SP due to higher Muslim support.
We create two scenarios:
I) The SP alliance wins 5% of the vote due to higher Muslim support.
II) The SP alliance wins an additional 5% vote share in 33 Jat-influenced joint seats and the BJP loses 5%.
In Scenario I, the BJP could lose up to 13 seats compared to 2017, while the SP+RLD could gain 15 minority-influenced seats.
In Scenario 2, the BJP could lose 20 seats, despite having a 38.5% vote share, while the SP could gain 22 seats, with its vote share rising to 34.3%. This scenario requires a much bigger swing, and the BJP could still have the upper hand due to a highly polarized atmosphere.
The Owaisi Factor
Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM announced they would contest 100 odd seats in UP. In Bihar, he was able to win five seats and undermine the prospects of Tejashwi Yadav in phase 3, considered his stronghold.
SP must be wary of it because Owaisi symbolizes the politics of representation. By attacking so-called secular parties for not promoting Muslim leadership, he gained considerable influence among young Muslims. Akhilesh is banking on the narrative that Owaisi is a ‘vote katwa’ which will only help the BJP.
Then there is also the Mayawati charisma. However, strong rumors of BSP being the BJP’s B team may reduce his chances of gaining minority support even though he gave tickets to 25% Muslims in the first list.
According to reports, SP may also give fewer tickets to Muslims to lose their MY tag. This makes the task of winning the most minority-influenced seats more daunting.
SP hopes the weakening of the BSP, the alliance with RLD and a bipolar contest with the BJP could help it undo an Owaisi breach. So, will the Muslims who supported the PS in the last elections still consolidate behind Akhilesh? Or will Muslim votes split equally with BSP and Congress? Can Owaisi spoil the party and appeal to the Yuva/disenchanted Muslim voter? Or will the BJP have the final say due to greater polarization among Hindus?
(Amitabh Tiwari is a political commentator and strategist. A former corporate and investment banker, he tweets @politicalbaaba. Opinions expressed are personal.)
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