How to (Not) Study Muslim Electoral Responses?

Published date01 December 2015
Date01 December 2015
Subject MatterDiscussion/Response
How to (Not) Study Muslim
Electoral Responses?
Hilal Ahmed1
The aim of this short note is to engage with a few issues raised by Manindra Nath Thakur in his article,
‘How do Muslims Vote?: Case of Seemanchal Parliamentary Elections’ (Studies in Indian Politics,
Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 81–93). More specifically, I would like to address two central themes: (a) what
is Muslim community, politically? This question is related to the ‘conceptual’ imagination of Indian
Muslim community (not communities, as the author tends to use Hindu and Muslim as perceptible con-
ceptual categories) and its engagement with electoral politics; (b) how to theorize Muslim electoral
behaviour? This issue is concerned with the explanatory capacity of an argument. The note does not
intentionally use election data produced by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)-Lokniti
simply to avoid an unnecessary debate on survey research versus ethnography. Instead, the note is based
on a rereading of the ethnographic details given in the article as evidences.
The author agrees with the fact that Muslim community is divided on caste and class lines. However, he
does not wish to overstretch Muslim diversity argument. He notes:
it does not mean that there is any guarantee they are voting according to…sociological categories…the fact that
the Muslim community is constituted of many castes and multiple social or economic aspirations does not give
sufcient reasons to believe that the idea of vote bank is also a myth. (p. 83)
In order to justify this contention, the author evokes the famous ‘security’ argument. According to him:
The minority community in many cases suffers from insecurity, and therefore, en bloc voting should be seen
as a form of collective action towards ensuring political presence…In a liberal democracy such collective
action is not uncommon…the choices are made on the consideration of many factors and there are regional
variations too. However, the minority insecurity seems to be the most important factor at the moment when the
rise of BJP, a party based on the ideology of Hindutva, seems to be inevitable…the minority insecurity may
always remain a factor, which may every now and then play a role in going for en bloc voting. (p. 84)
1 Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), and Rajya Sabha Fellow, 2015–2016.
Studies in Indian Politics
3(2) 299–304
© 2015 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2321023015601753
Corresponding author:
Hilal Ahmed, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), 29 Rajpur Road, Civil Lines, New Delhi 110054.

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