Gujarat elections have traditionally had a low count of Muslim candidates, and even these have managed to poll, on an average, a fraction of the votes of the community they have sought to represent. Muslims make up 9.67% of Gujarat’s population but Muslim candidates managed to garner only 2.37% of the total valid votes polled in 2012.
In terms of average votes polled, a Muslim candidate polled an average 3,394 votes while a non-Muslim candidate polled 18,158, which is 6 times higher. The gap narrowed when Muslim candidates had the backing of the Congress. The Congress’s seven Muslims in 2012 polled an average 57,930 votes while its other 169 candidates polled an average 60,764.
Part of the reason would be that there were few Muslim candidates (192 out of 1,666) to claim those votes, apart from the fact that not all Muslims would have voted on the basis of religion alone.
Social activists say besides communalisation in Gujarat, there is also a sense of anger against the community leadership for failing to make themselves relevant. “Muslims have expectations but the present political leadership of the community has failed to live up these expectations,” Gujarat-based social activist Zakia Soman said. “This leadership has not been able to engage in the political process to highlight issues of the community the way it should. This is one reason why you may not see the community rallying behind its leaders as they used to.”
Muslim candidates’ performance in 2012 was slightly better than in 2002 and 2007, when they managed only 1.40% and 1.89% of the total votes polled. Even in the 1990 election, when the BJP was first making an impact in Gujarat, Muslim candidates drew only 2.67% of the votes.