Explained in numbers: The BJP’s caste calculus behind anti-Shaheen Bagh tirade
Sample these: Desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro s**lo ko, Boli se nahi manega toh goli se toh maan hi jayega, Ye log aapke ghar mein ghusenge, behen betiyo ko rape karenge.
These are among several utterances by BJP leaders in the run-up to assembly elections in Delhi. All these statements come in the backdrop of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens, at Shaheen Bagh for more than 50 days now.
Delhi goes to polls on February 8 and BJP is eyeing a return to power here after 22 years. Both upper castes, which form 41 per cent of the electorate, and Muslims, with 14 per cent voter strength, swing between major political parties, thus determining the outcome of an election.
India Today Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) analysed Lokniti-CSDS surveys of the last five elections (assembly and Lok Sabha) in Delhi and found that upper caste voting trends differ in state and Parliamentary polls. While the upper caste has massively supported the BJP in national elections, it has thrown its weight behind AAP in legislative polls.
Similarly, the Muslim vote has been swinging between AAP and Congress in these elections. In such a situation, the BJP can hope to win Delhi if it retains the support of upper castes (75 per cent of them voted for Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha election) and is able to push for a division in Muslim votes between AAP and Congress.
Between national and state elections
Recent electoral outcomes suggest that voters have been increasingly making a distinction between general and state elections. The PM Modi-led NDA received a thumping victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but in assembly polls held just before and after it, the BJP lost five out of six states it was ruling.
Since the inception of AAP in Delhi’s political scenario in 2013, Independents and smaller parties such as BSP have been pushed out of the race. Interestingly, BJP is the only party in Delhi to have always bagged around one-third of the votes in all elections (Lok Sabha and state) since 1993.
Second, the BJP has always got more votes in Lok Sabha elections compared to assembly polls in Delhi. Since 1993, this is the 14th election in Delhi seven Lok Sabha and six assembly elections have been held so far.
It has been 27 years since Delhi got partial statehood through the 69th Constitutional Amendment and was declared the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT-Delhi) in 1993. Some 1.47 crore electors will exercise their right to choose the next government in the Capital.
Except in the 2009 Lok Sabha election when it got 35 per cent votes, BJP has always got over 40 per cent votes in Delhi. However, in the assembly elections, except in 1993 when it got 43 per cent votes, BJP has never touched the 40 per cent mark.
In 15 months between 2013 and 2015, Delhi witnessed three (two assembly and one Lok Sabha) elections and votes received by the BJP in this period saw drastic ups and downs. In the 2013 assembly election, the BJP got 33 per cent votes and won 31 seats. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, it got 47 per cent votes an increase of 14 per cent. But in the 2015 assembly polls, the BJP got 32 per cent votes a dip of 15 per cent and only three seats.
Caste and category choices
To analyse these ups and downs, we look at category-wise voting preferences of the respondents in the last five elections (assembly and Lok Sabha) in Delhi. The data has been provided by Lokniti-CSDS, which conducted post poll surveys in all the five elections.
The survey data reveals that BJP has been firmly backed by the upper castes, which comprise 41 per cent of Delhi’s electorate, the highest for any category in Delhi. This is the core vote bank of BJP, the reason it has always managed to secure almost one-third of the total votes in every assembly election.
Among upper castes, Brahmins constitute 13 per cent, Rajputs 8 per cent, Vaishyas 7 per cent, Punjabi Khatris 5 per cent and others 8 per cent. In the last five elections, the average votes for the BJP among upper castes stood at 50 per cent.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, 75 per cent of the upper caste votes went to BJP, which is almost double from the 2015 assembly polls (40 per cent). Significantly, in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, 56 per cent upper caste votes went to BJP, but just eight months later, it lost 16 per cent votes from the category. Since upper castes constitute 41 per cent of the total electorate, it means this 16 per cent loss had cost the BJP a total loss of 6.5 per cent votes among Delhi’s electorate.
At the same time, AAP received 46 per cent upper caste votes in 2015, which was a gain of 21 per cent from the 2013 assembly election. If BJP had managed to hold on to its upper caste vote bank in 2015, AAP would have suffered a total loss of 8.6 per cent votes in the last assembly election.
Analysing the voting patterns of Muslims in Delhi, we found that AAP had been gaining among the community, but lost out massively to the Congress in the 2019 general election. Muslims constitute 14 per cent of Delhi’s electorate. In 2015, AAP received the votes of 76 per cent Muslims, but in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it came down to only 28 per cent a loss of 48 per cent.
On the contrary, the Congress, which got only 20 per cent Muslim votes in 2015, received 66 per cent votes from the community in 2019. This 46 per cent swing can cause a loss or gain of 6.4 per cent of the total vote.
Data suggest that vote swing among upper castes and Muslims are decisive factors that shape the outcome of Delhi’s elections. What the BJP, therefore, will want is to hold on to the upper caste vote bank or at least avoid significant loss, and push or hope for a division of Muslim votes among AAP and Congress.
The Shaheen Bagh protests have provided the BJP with a much-needed boost to consolidate its core Hindu vote, more specifically the upper caste, which has been ideologically closer to the saffron party. But what complicates matters for the BJP is the lack of a credible local face to take on CM Arvind Kejriwal.
Whether the BJP succeeds in its gamble or not will be known on February 11.
Also read: No ‘aam aadmi’ party this! AAP’s Facebook campaign four times costlier than BJP
Also read: Budget impact: NRIs in non-DTAA countries likely to face tax heat