Muslim voters returning to Congress, alarm bells for regional parties?

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In 1967, due to the mobilization of opposition parties, the Congress had to face defeat in many states. In the Lok Sabha elections held in 1977 after the Emergency, the Congress had to be thrown out of power at the Center for the first time. But the real weakening of the Congress began only in the 1990s.

Despite the aggressive campaigning of Jinnah’s party Muslim League in the elections held during the British period in the country, a large section of Muslim voters used to vote for the Congress. The country became independent in 1947. Jinnah’s Muslim League got Pakistan, but in the elections held in the early decades after independence, Muslims overwhelmingly voted for the Congress. The Congress ruled the country for decades on the basis of a large vote bank of many forward castes, Muslims and Dalits including Brahmins.

In 1967, due to the mobilization of opposition parties, the Congress had to face defeat in many states. In the Lok Sabha elections held in 1977 after the Emergency, the Congress had to be thrown out of power at the Center for the first time. But the real weakening of the Congress began only in the 1990s. When the Muslim voters came out of JP’s movement and started voting for Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Yadav, who later became leaders of Mandal politics, considering them as their leaders. Muslim voters first went to the account of Janata Dal and as new parties broke away from Janata Dal and formed, Muslim voters also joined them. After this, the Dalit voters also left the Congress and went with the BSP. The BSP made its first splash in the country’s politics during the time of Kanshi Ram in Punjab and after that it got established in the politics of Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest state. Even today, the BSP has 10 MPs in the Lok Sabha, despite being weak in its strongest bastion Uttar Pradesh and losing consecutive elections. The biggest thing is that apart from Uttar Pradesh, in whichever state the BSP contests elections in the country, it also gets the vote of 5 to 8 percent of the voters who have generally been voting for the Congress for decades. After the continuous weakening of the Congress and becoming directionless, at last the Brahmin voters also left them. But now it seems that due to various reasons, Congress is slowly wooing its old vote bank again.

First of all, let’s talk about a big vote bank of the country, about which it is believed that they vote together in bulk – Muslim voters. In view of the rapidly changing political situation of the country, it is now visible that the voters of the country are getting disillusioned with the regional parties and the Muslim voters are moving fast towards holding the hand of the Congress once again. We got to see the biggest example of this in all the Vidhansabha elections in the South Indian state of Karnataka. In Karnataka politics, Muslim voters were generally divided between Congress and JDS. But in this assembly election, the Muslim voters of Karnataka abandoned JDS and completely voted in favor of Congress candidates and as a result of this, BJP had to face a crushing defeat in its strongest bastion of South India. With a landslide victory, the Congress formed the government in the state. The victory in Karnataka has boosted the morale and enthusiasm of Congress leaders and workers so much that now they are seeing the possibility of victory in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to be held this year. How the Muslim voters are getting disillusioned with the regional parties and how these communities seem to be joining the Congress, a hallmark of this was also seen in West Bengal.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is fighting vigorously against the BJP from Kolkata to Delhi, and Muslim vote bank is considered to be a major reason behind this. The BJP keeps on alleging that Mamata Banerjee can go to any extent to please the Muslim voters. The Muslims of Bengal are known to be staunch supporters of the TMC, but in spite of this, the Congress wrested the seat by defeating Mamata Banerjee’s candidate in the by-election in Sagar Dighi, an assembly with around 59 per cent Muslim voters in the state. Means Muslim voters voted for Congress instead of TMC.

This inclination of Muslim voters towards Congress is a danger bell for regional parties. Everyone has seen the condition of JDS in Karnataka. If the same trend continues in 2024, then Congress can do wonders in many states including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The most important thing is that the Congress’s victory in these states in the Lok Sabha elections may not have much effect in the assembly elections to be held immediately after this, but if this trend continues, the Congress, SP-RJD will avoid getting trapped in the OBC census trap. If Kar succeeds in wooing the Muslim voters as well as the forward castes and to some extent Dalits, then there will be an existential crisis for many regional parties.

– Santosh Pathak

Senior Journalist & Columnist

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