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Gujarat polls: How BJP wins Muslim-dominated seats without Muslim votes

Aditya Menon | Updated on: 17 November 2017, 11:57 IST
(Arya Sharma)

Even as the Congress appears to have been successful in wooing a section of Patidars and OBCs into its fold, it is facing a challenge from a section of Muslims.

The main demand arising from the community, which has consistently supported the party, is representation. Banners were put up in Surat’s Old City, which falls in the Surat East constituency, warning the Congress that it would face a backlash if it ignores Muslims in the distribution of tickets.

A similar demand has come from the Azamgarh-based Rashtriya Ulema Council, which has threatened to put up candidates in Gujarat if the Congress fails to field at least 18 Muslim candidates in the upcoming elections. This is roughly proportional to the 9% share of Muslims in Gujarat’s population.

This is a strange dilemma for the Congress. Fielding Muslim candidates has often led to consolidation of Hindu votes behind the BJP.  It is a tragic reality that in very few cases do Muslim candidates manage to get substantial Hindu votes. On the other hand, not fielding a Muslim could lead to several Muslim candidates contesting as spoilers or vote-cutters.

In Gujarat, Muslim candidates contesting as independents or under the symbol of parties like the BSP and SP have caused the defeat of several Congress candidates in Muslim-dominated seats.  And this has happened even in seats where Congress fielded a Muslim candidate. This resulted in a strange paradox: Muslim-dominated seats electing BJP MLAs.

While the BJP has claimed that Muslims voted for the party, the increase in Muslim support for the party was, at best, marginal. Its success in Muslim-dominated seats has largely been due consolidation of Hindu votes behind BJP and split in Muslim votes due to the presence of Muslim independent candidates.

There are two ways in which the presence of Muslim independent candidates helps the BJP.


This phenomenon is easy to identify numerically. This is when the combined vote share of non-Congress Muslim candidates is more than the margin between the BJP and the Congress. These spoiler candidates take away a number of votes that would have gone to the Congress, thereby helping the BJP win.  The spoilers may also help in seats where the Muslim population isn’t significant but the seat is closely fought between the two parties and even a small split in votes can change the result.

Here are a few instances from 2012 and 2007 Assembly elections.

2012 Assembly polls

Jamalpur Khadia

District: Ahmedabad

Muslim population: 61%

Election Result

Bhushan Ashok Bhatt (BJP): 38.63%

Samirkhan Vajirkhan Sipai (Congress): 33.54%

Margin of BJP’s victory: 5.09%

Other Muslim candidates (combined vote share): 26.9%

In this seat, there were as many as 6 Muslim candidates other than Congress’ Samirkhan Sipai. Just one Independent candidate, Sabirbhai Kabliwala, got 24.52% votes, making it possible for BJP to win a seat where Muslims constitute 61% of the population. Incidentally, BJP’s vote share is almost exactly the same as the proportion of Hindus in the Assembly seat, which means that it is possible for the party to have won without getting a single Muslim vote.  


District: Ahmedabad 

Muslim population: 28%

Election Result

Girdansinh Rajput (BJP): 45.29%

Dhirubhai Shyani (Congress): 42.99%

BJP’s victory margin: 2.3%

5 Muslim candidates (combined vote share): 3.16%


2007 Assembly polls


District: Kachhch 

Muslim population: 23%

Election result

Jayantilal Bhanushali (BJP): 44.37%

Narendrasinh Jadeja (Congress) 32.97

BJP’s victory margin: 11.40%

Ibrahim Halepotra (BSP): 14.10%



District: Junagadh 

Muslim population: 16%

Election result

Lakhabhai Kargatiya (BJP): 47.25%

Chandrikaben Chudasama (Congress): 44.68%

BJP’s victory margin: 2.57%

5 Muslim candidates (combined vote share): 4.71%



District: Ahmedabad 

Muslim population: 6%

Election result

Gogjibhai Rathod (BJP): 47.64%

Jagdishbhai Koli Patel (Congress): 44.32%

BJP’s victory margin: 3.32%

2 Muslim candidates (combined vote share): 4.68%



District: Ahmedabad 

Muslim population: Above 30%

Election result

Vallabhbhai Kakadiya (BJP): 49.09%

Dhirubhai Shyani (Congress): 45.50%

BJP’s victory margin: 3.59%

5 Muslim candidates (combined vote share): 3.88%



District: Kheda 

Muslim population: 11%

Election result

Nitin Patel (BJP): 48.15%

Baldevji Thakor (Congress): 47.18%

BJP’s victory margin: 0.97%

3 Muslim candidates (combined vote share): 1.08%


Surat East

District: Surat 

Muslim population: 22%

Election result

Ranjitbhai Gilitwala (BJP): 47.30%

Pravinchandra Changawala (Congress): 45.27%

BJP’s victory margin: 2.03%

6 Muslim candidates (combined vote share): 6.23%

Hindu consolidation

The second way Muslim independent candidates help the BJP is not easy to express quantitatively. It has been seen that the presence of a high number of Muslim candidates in the electoral arena could lead to a consolidation of Hindu votes behind the BJP. This is particularly evident in urban areas which have a history of communal violence, such as Ahmedabad.

On the other hand, in areas like Kachhch and Saurashtra, where communal polarisation is less, a large number of Muslim candidates don’t necessarily have a bearing on Hindu voting patterns.



District: Ahmedabad

Muslim population: 35%

Number of Muslim candidates: 6

BJP vote share: 58.2%



District: Ahmedabad

Muslim population: 17%

Number of Muslim candidates: 6

BJP vote share: 59%



District: Ahmedabad

Muslim population: 2%

Number of Muslim candidates: 4

BJP vote share: 61.31%



District: Jamnagar

Muslim population: 7%

Number of Muslim candidates: 5



District: Jamnagar

Muslim population: 16%

Number of Muslim candidates: 7



District: Kheda

Muslim population: 15%

5 Muslim and 2 Christian candidates

BJP vote share: 49.31%



District: Bharuch

Muslim population: 44%

Number of Muslim candidates: 5

BJP vote share:  51.13%


Surat East

District: Surat

Muslim population: 22%

Number of Muslim candidates: 7

BJP vote share: 53.39%


Surat North

District: Surat

Muslim population: 9%

Number of Muslim candidates: 10

BJP vote share: 57.77%



District: Surat

Muslim population: 26%

Number of Muslim candidates: 6

BJP vote share: 53.06%



District: Mahesana

Muslim population: 5%

Number of Muslim candidates: 4

BJP vote share: 55.15%



District: Junagadh

Muslim population: 16%

Number of Muslim candidates: 4

BJP vote share: 53.28%

The outlier

Mohammad Javid Abdulmutalib Peerzada of the Congress won the Wankaner seat in Morbi district in 2012 with a margin of nearly 6000 votes.  Even though Muslims are 23% of the population in Wankaner, Peerzada secured 38.92% votes, indicating that many Hindus voted for him as well.  

Besides Peerzada, there was only one other Muslim candidate in the fray who barely got 1000 votes. On the other hand, the Gujarat Parivartan Party candidate Parshotam Bavarva got 19.98% votes, ensuring the defeat of BJP candidate Jitu Somani.

The Peerzada family, who are Momin Shia Muslims, has dominated politics in Wankaner since decades. Abdulmutalib Peerzada, father of Mohammadjavid Peerzada, had even defeated Keshubhai Patel in 1972. Patel was a Jana Sangh candidate back then.

Wankaner doesn’t have a history of communal violence, which also makes it easier for a Muslim candidate to get elected.

Wankaner’s case shows that Muslim candidates are successful only if there’s no communal polarisation and they manage to secure support from Hindu voters, or if there is a split in BJP’s core votes, as was the case in 2012.

First published: 16 November 2017, 20:27 IST