Among factors that have shaped a bigger victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party and ensured the return of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one that even the party insiders did not expect. Over the second half of his term, the Modi government was seen battling among a plethora of attacks against it, its alleged persecution of the minorities and Dalits. Contrary to this anti-minorities image of the government that the Opposition tried to build, the voters appear to have conveyed otherwise.
A cursory look at the 92 Lok Sabha constituencies where Muslims form a majority of the voters shows that the BJP has not only done better than all other parties, it has increased its tally from the general elections held five years ago.
Of the 92 constituencies where Muslim voters are in majority, BJP has won 45 seats, the maximum won by any party and better than its own tally of 41 seats in the 2014 general elections. The Congress emerged victorious on 18 seats and others on 29.
Much of the credit for this remarkable feat goes to Modi as most of the Muslim- majority seats where the BJP emerged the victor were visited by the PM in the course of his campaign blitzkrieg. In Uttar Pradesh for instance, where Modi addressed the maximum (31) rallies, a majority of the Muslim-majority seats went to the BJP. The state where the Mahagathbandhan of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party received a major setback became the focus area for the Prime Minister soon after the alliance of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav was announced. Contrary to perception, the alliance failed to inflict any significant damage to the BJP and was restricted to 15 of 80 seats (BSP-10 and SP-5) while the NDA’s tally marginally went down to 60 from 71 in the previous election. A state-wise breakdown of 69 such seats shows just how the BJP has managed to benefit from the Muslim vote and punctures the Opposition’s allegations of the party being anti-minority to a large extent.
Meerut, where Muslims form 35% of the population and was where PM Modi began his marathon election campaign, went the BJP’s way with Rajendra Agarwal beating his nearest rival Haji Mohammed Yakoob of the BSP by 5,000 votes. Agarwal’s vote share was 48.19% while the BSP candidate polled 47.8% of the votes. Bareilly, another Muslim-majority seat of UP, went to BJP with Santosh Kumar Gangwar defeating his SP rival Bhagwat Saran Gangwar by a margin on over 1,60,000 votes. Modi had campaigned on this seat too and sent out a strong message of his government’s vision of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.
Aligarh, another seat where Muslims wield considerable influence, voted decisively in Modi’s favour with BJP’s Satish Gautam winning against his BSP rival by around 2.5 lakh votes (56%). The case is the same in other constituencies of Muslim influence – Of the 23 Muslim-majority seats in UP, the BJP has won 15, the Congress 0 and Others 8.
It is apparent from the vote share of winning candidates that Modi’s popularity has had some influence on the minds of Muslim voters. For the BJP, the confusion in the minds of the Muslim voters between the Congress and Mahagathbandhan candidates worked effectively.
The case was similar in neighbouring Bihar where the Muslim-Yadav combination has traditionally worked in favour of Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress deployed its firebrand orator Navjot Singh Sidhu to prevent any division of Muslim voters. Of the four Muslim-majority seats in Bihar, the BJP bagged 3 seats while the Congress bagged 1 seat. The NDA’s tally on this seat was zero in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP has seen significant gains in the state where PM Modi and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee were locked in a bitter battle of words as their cadre clashed in a fight for supremacy on numerous occasions. The state is home to the maximum number of Muslim-majority seats. Of the 28 Muslim-majority seats in West Bengal, the BJP had managed just one seat in 2014 while the Congress won 4 and others 23. This time though, the BJP increased its tally to 9 on such seats, the Congress went down to 2 and others 17.
In neighbouring Assam, which has 6 Muslim-majority seats, the BJP had won just 2 in 2014. This tally went up to 3 in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Of the 2 seats considered Muslim-majority in the national capital, the BJP swept both, repeating its 2014 performance and winning all 7 seats.
Maharashtra, where 4 Muslim-majority seats went the BJP’s way in 2014, the NDA’s tally dropped to 3, reflecting a marginal drift from the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.
In Telangana, where Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM wields considerable clout, the BJP and AIMIM have managed to retain one seat each while the Congress has failed to open its account.