Muslims as unpredictable as other voters

May 5th, 2009 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Narendra Modi By Khalid Akhter
New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) With each election, Muslims in India are getting as unpredictable as the others and vote depending on local conditions. And most of them prefer a secular party, a study shows.

Several parties, including the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, are desperately wooing Muslims in the ongoing Lok Sabha poll, which is expected to produce a badly hung parliament.

Surprisingly, as many as 25 percent of Muslim voters in Karnataka chose the BJP in the 2004 election although it is identified as pro-Hindu, says the study, conducted by the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

Based on a survey of over 27,000 Muslims, the study said that Left parties and the BJP averaged seven percent of the Muslim vote each.

Sanjeer Alam, who carried out part of the survey, told IANS: “In all 53 percent of Muslims (voted in 2004). Some 37 percent preferred the Congress. Along with its allies, it got 53 percent.”

The study noted that Muslims, the country’s largest minority, voted for all major political parties.

“Muslims vote for different parties depending on regional conditions and local aspirations,” Shireen Moosvi, professor of Indian history at the Aligarh Muslim University, told IANS.

“I don’t think Muslims ever voted en bloc for one single party in India,” she said. “Muslims don’t even form a particular class. Aspirations of a lower class Muslim are different from an upper class in the same city, and they vote accordingly.”

Moosvi also said that though Muslims largely preferred secular parties, they have factored local conditions and rooted for BJP candidates in some areas.

Young Muslims are clear about their aspirations. They want job security, development and safety.

Sadia Khan, 21, who studies at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university, feels that economic stability and safety were her prime concerns. “Any Muslim is first an Indian and like every other Indian, development and economic stability is my foremost concern.

“After the Gujarat riots, I would not vote for a party like the BJP which has leaders like Narendra Modi. So, safety is another priority,” Khan told IANS.

Ubaid-ur-Rehman, 29, a PhD scholar in Jamia Millia Islamia, said there was no difference between political parties playing divisive agenda in India and the Taliban.

“The BJP has not dropped its agenda of divisive politics. They are no different from the Taliban. It’s better to keep such parties out of power,” he said.

Muslims also challenge the popular perception that clerics determine whom the community should vote for.

“We don’t issue any ‘fatwa’ telling them whom to vote for,” Maulana Khaleeq Ahmad Madrasi, pro-vice chancellor of Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband town of Uttar Pradesh, told IANS.

Historian Irfan Habib too feels that local conditions rather than the injunctions of clerics influence the voting decision. “Muslims are not influenced by clerics. Several factors, especially regional conditions, play a major role,” Habib told IANS.

But Muslims complain that they have not been given their due by any ruling party.

Businessman Shahid Ahmad said: “The political parties that have been in power have done little for the community. They are responsible for the pitiable conditions of the community. There is very little representation of the community in the legislature or bureaucracy.”

The 38-year-old Ahmad asked: “With such a track record of our political parties, tell me whom I should vote for?”

(Khalid Akhter can be contacted at

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