Karnataka polls: 3 reasons why Muslims may continue to split ‘secular’ votes

Karnataka polls: 3 reasons why Muslims may continue to split ‘secular’ votes

Will the Muslim community, which has shown tremendous maturity against repeated right-wing provocation, support a single party?

Will the Muslim community in Karnataka join hands to defeat the communal forces in the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections by unitedly supporting a single party? Or will its votes continue to be divided, splitting up the so-called “secular” parties’ shares?

So far, the community in general has exhibited admirable political maturity in the state by not getting provoked despite attempts to needle them through issues such as hijab, azan, halal, and the Chamrajpet Idgah Maidan dispute, among others.

The latest provocation came from Rama Sene chief Pramod Mutalik’s controversial statement, “Trap 10 Muslim girls for each Hindu girl.” Thanks to the mature reaction from Muslims, the issue did not blow up into a full-fledged communal strife.

But the main discussion in political circles now is whether the community will support a single party this time, winning democratically against repeated right-wing attacks. Analysts feel it won’t happen even if they “unite” against BJP.

How Muslims divide

Muslims comprise around 13% of the population in Karnataka. If they unite to vote for a single party, there is a possibility for a “secular” party, such as Congress or JD(S), to bag more seats. However, though the JD(S) has a “secular” tag, it lost much credibility in that regard after joining hands with the BJP to form a government and going on to become the reason for the saffron party’s rise in the state.

The other major communities are Lingayats (around 18%), Vokkaligas (17%), OBCs (18%) and Dalits (20%). The BJP has the support of a big chunk of the Lingayats, while the Congress is believed to have OBC backing. The Vokkaligas are divided between Congress and JD(S), while a small section is leaning towards BJP. Dalit support is also divided between the BJP and Congress.

Also read: Karnataka hijab ban: SC to set up bench to hear Muslim girls’ plea for exam

However, analysts believe three factors will not allow Muslims to vote for just one party. Muslim votes will be divided in the Old Mysuru, coastal, and other regions. Though the community has traditionally supported the Congress, those in the Old Mysuru region have now started supporting the JD(S). Therefore, banking on Muslim votes will not be wise for the Congress. And though the community may be united in voting against the BJP, it won’t affect the party electorally.

Three factors

The JD(S) — which wants both national parties to get fewer seats so that it can become kingmaker — has appointed CM Ibrahim as its state president. Ibrahim was once with the JD(S) and later joined Congress along with the Siddaramaiah team and has now turned to the JD(S) to become its “minority face”. This move will draw some Muslim votes towards JDS and will hit the Congress.

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which is trying to become the voice of Muslims, has gained momentum in the coastal and Malnadu districts and is also spreading in other areas, including Mysuru. A chunk of young Muslims are favouring SDPI’s political participation, said a Muslim leader. Their primary objective is not to defeat the BJP or the Congress, but to make SDPI stronger.

SDPI has been contesting in the Assembly elections since 2013. Its vote share was 3.2% per cent in that year and rose to 10.5% in the 2018 Assembly elections. It won six wards in the urban local body elections in 2021. Thus, a section of Muslims is shifting to SDPI.

Also read: Ayodhya of South? Ahead of Karnataka polls, BJP to renovate ancient temple

Also, it is said that All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi will also plunge into the Karnataka Assembly elections by fielding candidates in several districts in the Muslim-dominated areas. This will again hit Congress dreams in half a dozen seats and indirectly help the BJP. Also, the mindsets of the chunks supporting the Congress, the JD(S), and the SDPI are reportedly different, which will indirectly help the BJP.

Peaceful protests

Many attempts have been made to disturb communal harmony in the state over the past year or so. The provocations were many — from top political leaders, including ministers and BJP leaders, down to the grassroots level by fringe elements. But the community largely remained restrained and peaceful.

Fringe Muslim groups like SDPI have failed to incite the community to react, thanks to the committee of Ulemas (religious leaders), who controlled the hotheads. The Ulemas and the Ulema Emreath Shariat, a board consisting of around 15 qualified Muslim leaders, including Ulemas, advocates, government officers, social activists, etc., ensured that the community did not take the bait of provocation.

Mohamed Maqsood Imran of the Khateeb-o-Imam Jamla Masjid and the principal of Jamia-ul-Uloom Arabic College told The Federal that the Board was not working efficiently earlier but was functioning better now.

Also read: Karnataka polls: Be the No 1 party in Old Mysuru, Amit Shah tells BJP leaders

“We discussed all these issues and asked the public not to be provoked and maintain calm and harmony. We must abide by the law of the land and not get provoked by any statements or incidents,” Imran said. If the community has any grievances, it will approach the stakeholders in the government for redress, but not react, Imran said.

Tremendous discipline

An important factor that has not escaped the mind of the community is that any escalation of the communal issue would result in poll advantages to the right wing. The Muslim leadership has also been able to convince the grassroots level about this.

The discipline exhibited by the community members has been tremendous and will yield results in future since the leadership of the scholars has pushed the political leadership to the backseat. This will help the community tackle the issues sensibly rather than be guided by sentiments, said P Usman, a senior high court advocate.

“A think tank for the Muslim community is in the offing, a point to ponder for all. Muslims in the mainstream, as it was during the freedom struggle, will only pave the way for the progress of the nation, which the right-wing political groups can never digest easily. But the people of this great nation will realize it soon,” he said.

Read More
Next Story