This Article is From Jun 12, 2023

Opinion: How Do Muslims View 9 Years of Modi Rule? Data Reveals...

The idea of 'Muslim Mind' seems to influence our public discussions in an interesting manner. Although there has always been some curiosity about "how Muslims think and behave in secular India", the rise of the Modi-led BJP as the dominant force at the national level has transformed this sincere concern into political anxiety.

The BJP's Hindutva politics revolves around the slogan of sab ka saath, sab ka vikas, sab ka vishwas claiming that there is no need to treat Muslims as a separate social entity. The party, no doubt, is making serious efforts to reach out to the Pasmanda Muslim communities; yet, the 'Muslim mind' is still seen as a problematic question.

Critics of the BJP are equally puzzled. It is true that non-BJP parties have opposed aggressive Hindutva and its violent anti-Muslim manifestations. Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra, which was supported by civil society organisations and people's movements, was a serious attempt in this regard. Yet, there is unease among non-BJP groups. Despite advocating communal brotherhood as a core political value, opposition parties do not want to be labeled as "pro-Muslim". The impression that the 'Muslim mind' can only be understood as an anti-BJP phenomenon seems to guide their political strategy.

I) Mapping The Muslim Mind

The Social and Political Barometer Survey 2023 conducted by CSDS-Lokniti is very relevant for one to go beyond the established stereotypical imaginations about Muslims. This survey's findings offer us a complex picture in which Hindus and Muslims do not always emerge as conflicting identities. More specifically, the Muslim response to Narendra Modi's leadership as Prime Minister of the country for nearly a decade provides insights for a serious discussion on the Muslim-Modi connection.

A clarification, however, is important here. The survey findings should not be exaggerated as the final truth. The survey is an important tool to capture public perception. That is the reason why CSDS-Lokniti surveys place significant emphasis on rigorous sampling techniques and the language used in survey questions. These findings only offer us a few indications or directions to further analyse the views, anxieties, perceptions and beliefs of the common people. Survey results would always become meaningful if they are placed in a proper analytical framework.

Three questions, in this sense, are relevant from our point of view. First, how do Muslims relate to basic existential issues such as poverty, unemployment, and price rise? Do they think differently? Second, how do Muslims evaluate the performance of BJP governments? Does this assessment influence their voting pattern? Finally, what is the Muslim perception of Narendra Modi? What are the qualities of leadership they identify in him?

II) Muslim minds represent Indian anxieties!

For the sake of clarity, let us look at Muslim perceptions in comparison to Hindu responses. Table 1 shows that a majority of Muslims believe their economic condition has remained the same in the last four years. We do not find any stark difference between the Hindu and Muslim opinions on this question, though it is also true that a sizeable number of Muslims claim that their economic condition has deteriorated during this period.


Note: Figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding off

Table 2 explains this complex Muslim response. We again find a remarkable consistency in Hindu and Muslim views. Muslims, like other religious groups, feel that unemployment, poverty and price rise are the biggest issues that the country is facing at the moment.


Note: Figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding off. The rest did not respond.

This raises the question of the capability of the government in dealing with present economic distress. The survey findings (Table 3) shows that a vast majority of Indians think that the Modi government has failed to control the prices. Muslim respondents also subscribe to this view. In fact, they are more vocal to highlight the economic failure of the government.


Note: Figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding off. The rest did not respond.

So, what about Sab ka saath Sab ka Vikas? We find a highly diversified Muslim response on this question. While a significant number of Muslims agree with the fact that the government has done a good job, there is an equally powerful segment of Muslim respondents who do not think that the development work has been satisfactory so far (Table 4). Although there is a crucial difference between Hindu and Muslim opinion on this issue, Muslim perceptions do not deviate significantly from the overall national opinion. This explains why only a third of Muslims seem to be satisfied with the overall performance of the BJP government (Table 5).


Note: Figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding off. The rest did not respond.


Note: Figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding off. The rest did not respond.

III) Diversity of political aspirations and the 'Modi factor'

Interestingly, we do not find any direct and clear correlation between economic dissatisfaction and political preferences. The BJP seems to be the preferred political option at the national level as 39 per cent of respondents argue that they would vote for the party in the next Lok Sabha election (Table 6). This response is plausible because it validates the overall satisfaction level of different communities regarding the BJP government's performance.

Although the Congress has emerged as the first choice for Muslims in this survey, the growing acceptability of the BJP among Muslims is quite noticeable. Almost 15 per cent Muslims claim that they would vote for the BJP in 2024. According to the CSDS-Lokniti National Election Study 2019, the BJP received almost 9 percent Muslim votes in the 17th Lok Sabha election. There is clearly an expected increase of six percent Muslim support for the party. This is also true about the other parties, especially the regional political formation. Almost 37 per cent Muslims confirm that they would like to support non-BJP, non-Congress formations in 2024. This diversity of Muslim political opinion certainly confirms that the idea of Muslim vote bank does not exist at all. 


Note: Figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding off. Others did not reveal their choices.

The figure of Narendra Modi has been a decisive factor so far. While it is true that he is still the number one choice for the post of Prime Minister in the country, the popularity of Rahul Gandhi is also increasing gradually. The Muslim opinion on this question is again very diversified (Table 7). More than 40 per cent of Muslims would like to see Rahul Gandhi as the PM of the country. However, a comparatively small, yet significant segment of Muslims favours Narendra Modi for the post of PM.


Note: Figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding off. The rest did not respond.

It is worth noting here that almost 15 percent Muslims like Narendra Modi as a leader, while more than 38 percent do not support this opinion. Interestingly, one third of Muslim respondents do not want to answer this tricky question. It simply means that a section of Muslim would prefer to remain silent (Table 8).


Note: Figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding off. The rest did not respond.

This finding is also linked to Modi's skills as a leader (Table 8). A majority of Muslims recognizes Modi's oratory skills as an important factor that makes him a popular leader. In fact, Muslim opinion beats the national average in this regard. It means that those Muslims who wants to see Modi as the next PM is fully impressed with his communication skills (Table 9).


Note: Figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding off. The rest did not respond. These figures are based on the opinions of only those respondents who said that they like Modi as a leader. See Table 8.

Let me conclude by highlighting three broad observations.

First, Muslim communities, like other social groups, are concerned about their deteriorating economic conditions. The communal divide does not affect their perceptions about everyday life and their resolve for collective survival.

Second, Muslim communities still take the idea of political participation very seriously for their survival as a religious minority. They are highly uncomfortable with aggressive Hindutva and for that reason there is a constant search for the best possible political option. That is the reason why a section of Muslims does not hesitate to support the BJP.

Finally, Muslims recognize the political importance of the figure of Narendra Modi. Again, there is a mixed response to this question. He is admired, disliked, and even ignored. This diversity of Muslim opinion, in a way, highlights a conscious and peaceful struggle for securing a meaningful existence in contemporary India.

(Hilal Ahmed is Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.