BJP Consolidated Upper Castes, OBCs & STs, But Not Dalits: Survey
Congress still remains first choice of Dalits in most of the states where it is in a direct contest against the BJP
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance’s spectacular victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was propelled by a near complete sweep in the Hindi heartland. The BJP and its allies won 203 out of 225 seats in Hindi-speaking states, the United Progressive Alliance won just seven seats and the Mahagathbandhan won 15 seats. This was particularly surprising as the party had lost three key Hindi heartland states to the Congress in the Assembly elections just six months ago.
Many have argued that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity cut across caste and economic backgrounds, at least among Hindu voters. This is largely accurate with a few state-specific exceptions.
However, the Lokniti-CSDS post poll survey reveals that a sizeable chunk of Dalit voters in the Hindi heartland may still have voted for the Opposition even though the BJP’s popularity among Dalit voters did increase significantly.
The communities that drove the Narendra Modi wave in the Hindi heartland are Upper Castes, OBCs and Adivasis. Let’s look at the state-wise picture.
A clear pattern can be seen in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, two of the states that the BJP lost to the Congress in December 2018: Many Upper Caste, OBC and Adivasi voters who voted for the Congress and other parties in December shifted to the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. In Madhya Pradesh, for instance, the BJP’s support among Adivasis increased from 30 percent to 54 percent.
According to the survey, the biggest gain for the BJP came from Jats in Rajasthan, from 26 percent in 2018 to 85 percent in the Lok Sabha elections. This could partly be due to the party’s alliance with Jat leader Hanuman Beniwal’s Rashtriya Loktantrik Party. Beniwal himself has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Nagaur.
However, in both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Congress retained its lead among Dalits. In Madhya Pradesh, 50 percent of Dalit voters are said to have voted for the Congress against 38 percent for the BJP and in Rajasthan, 54 percent of Dalits are said to have voted for the Congress against 39 percent for the BJP. Predictably, an overwhelmingly large proportion of Muslims chose the Congress in both the states.
Chhattisgarh is slightly different from this pattern. CSDS hasn’t released a detailed voting pattern for the state but its analysis published in The Hindu says, “BJP improved its performance across the social spectrum, except Adivasis who seem to have stayed with the Congress. In particular, the BJP managed to push the Congress way behind among young voters, women, college-educated youth, upper castes, OBCs, Dalits and the urban voters.”
The BJP pulled off a surprise in Jharkhand as well where the Congress-JMM-JVM(P)-RJD alliance was expected to do well. This is largely due to the solid support of Upper Castes and OBCs. An added element is the manner in which Adivasis got divided between Hindu and Christian tribals. According to the CSDS survey, 65 percent Hindu tribals voted for the NDA and 29 percent for the UPA, while 56 percent Christians (mostly tribals) voted for the UPA against 33 percent for the NDA.
This is supported by ground reports as well. It is said that the adivasi anger against the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act was presented as a “Christian tribal issue” and not one which concerned all Adivasis.
Again, like MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Congress had a lead among Dalits and Muslims; 48 percent of Dalits said they voted for the UPA, marginally ahead of the NDA at 46 percent. On the other hand 78 percent of Muslims said they voted for the UPA against 11 percent for NDA.
In Uttar Pradesh, the formidable SP-BSP-RLD Mahagathbandhan came a cropper as the NDA won 64 out of 80 seats. Here the NDA managed to consolidate every group except the Muslim-Yadav-Jatav Dalit core support base of the Mahagathbandhan. In fact, it succeeded in breaching the Mahagathbandhan votes more than the alliance could woo the BJP’s core vote banks: NDA got 82 percent Brahmin, 89 percent Rajput, 70 percent Vaishya, 84 percent other upper caste, 80 percent Kurmi/Koeri and 70 percent other OBC votes. On the other hand, the Mahagathbandhan got 75 percent Jatav, 73 percent Muslim and 60 percent Yadav votes.
The BJP also led the Mahagathbandhan among non-Jatav Dalits by 6 percentage points. However, given the latter’s huge lead among Jatavs, the Mahagathbandhan would have had a lead among Dalits overall.
In Uttarakhand, the CSDS survey says the BJP lagged behind Congress among Dalits and Muslims, but dominated among all other groups. However, the agency hasn’t released detailed findings on the state.
Perhaps the only state where the BJP managed to capture an overwhelmingly large proportion of Dalit votes is in Bihar. According to the CSDS survey, 76 percent of Dalits said they voted for the NDA compared to five percent for the UPA and 19 percent for other parties like the BSP.
The only communities among whom the UPA did better than NDA in Bihar are Muslims and Yadavs, the core support bases of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which drew a blank in the elections.
Overall, it seems that the BJP’s spectacular victory is a product of a combination of factors such as Prime Minister Modi’s popularity, some impact of his welfare schemes, the party’s clever social engineering and the efforts of the RSS. The sudden revival among Adivasis across all the Hindi-speaking states except possibly Chhatisgarh, would not without the role played by the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram.
Having said that, it seems that the BJP hasn’t succeeded in winning over Dalits as much as OBCs and Adivasis. The only exception is Bihar where the party benefitted due to the alliance which Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP as well as chief minister Nitish Kumar’s popularity among Mahadalits. In UP, it has benefitted by playing non-Jatav Dalits against the more dominant Jatavs. The Congress still remains the first choice of Dalits in most of the states where it is in a direct contest against the BJP.
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