By Shreyas Sardesai
The religious minorities of Delhi have emerged the most ardent supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party. Muslims and Sikhs, who had largely stayed away from the AAP in 2013 thus denying it a majority, voted massively for it this time.
Delhi’s Muslims, 12 per cent of the city’s population, have traditionally voted for the Congress. In fact, their support in 2013 had proved the party’s only consolation in the face of a drubbing — four of its 8 MLAs were Muslims from Muslim-dominated seats.
It can now be argued that the Congress was able to hold on to its Muslim support in 2013 not due to any great affection for it among the community, but because Muslims were unsure whether the AAP was in a position to defeat the BJP. Once they saw the winning capability of the AAP, they shifted in considerable numbers in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. However, the shift was hesitant as 56 per cent of Muslims voted for the AAP and 39 per cent for the Congress.
In this election, though, Muslims threw almost their entire weight behind AAP with nearly four of every five of them voting for it to ensure the BJP’s loss. The Trilokpuri riots, the Sangh Parivar’s reconversion campaign, and provocative speeches by BJP leaders seem to have strengthened the resolve of Muslims to defeat the BJP, with only 2 per cent of them voting for the party.
The level of Muslim support received by AAP — 77 percent — is unprecedented in Delhi’s recent electoral history and has resulted in the AAP winning 9 of the 10 seats where Muslims are over 30 per cent of the population. Most of these victories are by massive margins. In Okhla for instance, AAP’s Amanatullah Khan won by nearly 65,000 votes. Mustafabad is the only “Muslim seat” where the Congress finished ahead of the AAP; a division of votes saw the BJP winning.
Sikhs, 4 per cent of Delhi’s population, also rallied behind AAP — 57 per cent, 30 points higher since 2013. The AAP won all five Sikh-concentrated seats: Tilak Nagar, Hari Nagar, Rajouri Garden, Shahadra, Kalkaji. The Modi government’s decision to give additional compensation to the families of Sikhs killed in the 1984 riots could not help the BJP retain its traditional Sikh base; this survey shows 54 per cent Sikhs viewed the announcement as merely a vote-catching ploy.
Shreyas Sardesai is Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS