Hindus voting strategically? An analysis of the Hindu vote in Kerala and Assam

Posted on June 03, 2011 by G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, under Politics

The commonly held notion is that caste based voting is common among Hindus but not bloc voting as a community, while Muslims tend to vote as a monolithic group. Media reports and our field reports suggest that Hindus have indeed voted as a bloc and tactically in recent state elections in Kerala and Assam. In the post-Ayodhya Rathyatra era, this is a discernible trend in voting patterns of Hindus and has significant portents for the future. 
 
What is more significant is the fact that this tactical voting and reverse mobilsation of Hindus was observed in a state like Kerala, a state associated with high levels of literacy and social development and hardly a candidate for consolidation of Hindu votes along religious lines. 

With alliance partners like the Muslim League (MUL) and Kerala Congress (M) that appeal to the sizeable presence of Muslim and Christian communities in Kerala – Muslim and Christian voters account for 25% and 19% respectively – the Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF) has strongly canvassed for support among them. As a result, these UDF partners have done exceedingly well in the Muslim and Christian dominated regions. The MUL swept polls winning 20 of the 24 seats it contested and the Kerala Congress (M) has won 9 of the15 seats it contested. The MUL which had only eight seats in the previous assembly has more than doubled its tally.

However, the Congress party which is the principal pole of the UDF ended up as a loser and barely managed to win 38 of the 87 seats it contested. This is because the UDF partners benefited immensely from religious polarization in the minority dominant districts, while the Congress which contested most of the seats in Hindu dominant regions paid the price for the mobilization of minority communities’ votes by its partners.

The aggressive mobilization and wooing of Muslim and Christian voters has resulted in polarization of Hindu voters towards the Left Democratic Front (LDF). Accordingly, the LDF did remarkably well in Hindu dominant regions. This was the principal reason for the surge of the LDF in the later stages of the campaign which led to an almost upset LDF win. Would you call the Left Democratic Front communal? No. It was just a beneficiary of the Congress led UDF’s mobilization of Muslim and Christian voters along communal lines.

In Assam also, a similar trend of Hindu polarization was witnessed as a result of aggressive mobilization of Muslims by the All India United Democratic Front (AUDF) led by Badruddin Ajmal. AUDF benefited immensely winning 18 seats and emerged as the state’s principal opposition partying the state assembly.

Curiously, the Congress party was the beneficiary of Hindu polarization in Assam which contributed to the party’s unexpected electoral success and helped it counter ten years of incumbency in the state. Ironically, the Congress party which often resorts to minority appeasement as an electoral strategy has returned to power in Assam as a result of tactical voting by the Hindus. Should the Congress be called a communal party because Hindus voted tactically in its favour? 

The just concluded assembly elections have shown that aggressive mobilization of minority communities results in a reverse mobilization by the Hindus. This evidence comes from two states which are a study in contrast in terms of their development profile and geographic location with Assam located in far-East and Kerala in the farthest South. 

Hindus vote as a community only under strong provocation or in a rare reaction to community-wise intensive buildup by the minorities. The Congress party is a beneficiary of this Hindu reaction in Assam in response to Muslim consolidation in favour of AUDF, while it suffered a erosion in its support among Hindus on account of the aggressive mobilization of minorities by its alliance partners in Kerala.

That Congress party has been aggressively wooing the Muslim community nationally is evident from some of the statements of its national leaders like Digvijay Singh and Rahul Gandhi. Digvijay Singh has gone to the extent of referring reverentially to Osama bin Laden as “Osamaji” in his media interactions and for complained that he was not given a proper burial. His attempts to lend legitimacy to the preposterous theories of the Rastiya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) being the architect of 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack is aimed at earning the sympathies of Muslim fundamentalists. Ordinary Muslims are as much horrified at these crass attempts as are Hindus. 

Similarly, the Congress party has been targeting popularly elected chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, whom it has failed repeatedly to defeat politically in Gujarat. The Congress party is subverting various institutions, investigating agencies and even egging on government officials to implicate Narenda Modi. The Congress party has chosen to mark him out for attacks on all fronts. The latest instance of that party objecting to Jayalalithaa’s invitation to Modi for her swearing-in is stretching things too far. It appears likely that the Digvijay Singh’s (Congress party’s) communal statements and unceasing barbs against Narendra Modi are part of a calibrated strategy to mobilize Muslim votes in its favour. 

But in the light of the Hindu voting patterns in Kerala and Assam, a moot question arises if the Congress party’s explicit attempts at appeasing the Muslims by its blatantly communal statements and targeting of Narendra Modi would produce a Kerala-type reaction among Hindus all over the country.

Politics is all about perceptions. If the Congress party pursues an overt minority appeasement agenda for electoral gains, it may incur the wrath of Hindus as a community. Attempts by Rajiv Gandhi regime in the eighties to appease Muslims have alienated Hindus and later Muslims too when the Congress began to reverse the process by appeasing Hindus. Mother-son duo of Sonia - Rahul Gandhi seems to be taking the Congress party in the same direction.

The Congress party would do well to reassess its cynical minority mobilization strategies or at least be prepared for the possible adverse consequences of its actions in a Kerala or Assam like fashion.

GVL Narasimha Rao is a noted poll analyst


Response to: Hindus voting strategically? An analysis of the Hindu vote in Kerala and Assam

somashekhar says:
June 16, 2011
I will agree with what you said with kerala, but for assam i don't think if AUDF polarised the muslim votes then automatically if hindus should vote for BJP because of its presence as not in case with kerala, where BJP don't have strong presence.but you are saying reverse polarisation of AUDF benifited congress.
Matheikal says:
June 05, 2011
Isn't it rather funny that, in spite of the tactics and mobilisation of the Hindus - as your article claims - the BJP couldn't win even a single seat in Kerala? Does it mean that the Hindus in Kerala are sick of not only the communalism of the Congress and the Muslim Leagure but also of BJP?
somashekhar says:
June 16, 2011
I will agree with what you said with kerala, but for assam i don't think if AUDF polarised the muslim votes then automatically if hindus should vote for BJP because of its presence as not in case with kerala, where BJP don't have strong presence.but you are saying reverse polarisation of AUDF benifited congress.
Alkesh says:
June 16, 2011
Nice analysis... I believe that it is the Congress which is one of the most evil forces in the country. Minority appeasement is the Congress character and dangerous for India's TRUE secularism.
sanjay Kumar says:
June 16, 2011
I have been avid reader of your analysis and I used to be very enamoured of your reading of political situation. Your association with the saffron party has taken the sheen out of your work. The basic premise of journalism-objectivity- is gone from your writing. You look very very ordinary now. You must have seen by your self how flat you fell in your assessment of the 2009 general elections. You are now real ordinary.
Bala says:
June 16, 2011
"The Congress party would do well to reassess its cynical minority mobilization strategies..." A forlorn hope!
BK says:
June 23, 2011
Reasonably good analysis. As an observer on Asom, I can tell you with confidence that Hindus (Asomiya speaking as well as Bangla-Hindi-Nepali speaking) voted Congress only to keep aggressive Bangladesh-oriented muslim party out. They realised neither AGP nor BJP or combined can get majority. So, ultimately Congress will take help of muslim party to form govt and in that case muslim party will have greater say in govt formation and run. To say for future, AGP have no future in Assam to form govt alone or with allied with others. Its simple math, no non-Asomiya speaking Hindus vote AGP. And if AGP allied with muslim party, then they will get Zero seat. Only BJP can provide an alternate, if they can convince voters by action and not by mere words.
Amit Ashtekar says:
June 25, 2011
Your article is crisp & impartial. Hindus always were laid down by traitors like Digvijay Singh(currently), Jaichand (Prithviraj Singh's time) & Raghunath Rao (Marathas) Peshwa. But everytime a leader of stature like Narendra Madi, Bal Thackeray rises to help the Hindu brethren

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 G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, -G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, 45, is a leading election analyst and a political commentator.
 

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