Publication Type:

Conference papers


Raphael Susewind


Comparing urban and rural politics in India (EECURI workshop), March 18-19, London (2013)




With the 2012 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, talk of "Muslim vote banks" returned with vehemence. Both the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) tried to appeal to Muslim voters by promising reservation benefits, and many journalistic commentators attributed the outcome – a SP sweep – to a swing in "the Muslim vote". After the polls, Muslims themselves used their allegedly crucial role to de- mand positions and perks in the new government. Contrary to popular perception, political scientists however found that the SP did not perform all too well in Muslim- dominated districts, and while it remained the single most favored party of Muslims in post-poll surveys, its status actually eroded compared to 2007 (CSDS, 2012, 83). My paper attempts to reconcile these contradicting views through a shift in method- ology and more attention to local variation. Rather than assessing the "Muslim vote bank" hypothesis through survey or census data, it explores Muslim voting pattern based on a new dataset derived from election results on the level of polling booths and Muslim elector percentage based on the number of "Muslim" names on the electoral rolls of these booths. The paper finds that most politics are indeed local: Muslims have contributed to the SP sweep in some areas but not others, which both comple- ments and complicates more aggregate analyses. Unfortunately, this approach works better in urban than in rural areas since it requires polling stations with multiple booths – the implication of which is, however, also that the number of booths within each station is a fairly good indicator for the rural/urban divide.