GUWAHATI: Assam’s Muslim voters, who account for 35% of the total electorate, also form the biggest chunk of voters who actually turn up at polling stations to vote. However, they do not do it by choice but for compulsions, the principal one being fear of being marked as ‘doubtful’ or ‘D voter’ and getting disenfranchised by the EC.
In the just-concluded elections, too, they voted in large numbers. The 34 constituencies where they are in a majority registered an average of 84% turnout. In the remaining 92 constituencies, where number of Muslim voters is negligible, the average polling percentage was 79%.
In the 2021 election, the state’s average polling percentage is just over 82% but seven constituencies with high concentration of Muslim voters have recorded a turnout of over 90% and three other constituencies over 89%. Among these 10 seats, four were won by Congress and six by AIUDF in 2016.
Minority student leader and former advisor of Assam Minority Students’ Union (AMSU) Azizur Rahman, who contested the election from Naoboicha constituency, said the turnout of Muslims on polling day is always higher than voters of other communities because they have always been influenced greatly by political parties and candidates.
“Unlike other people, the Muslims (Bengali-speaking migrants) are less educated, poor and take their decision collectively. For the non-Muslim voters, who are educated, they have their individual decision on who to vote for and that is political parties and candidates take so much on interest on the Muslim voters and in that process these people have a higher awareness level,” Rahman said.
“There is one more reason for them always coming out in large numbers. They live in fear… if they do not vote they will be marked as ‘D voter’ on the electoral rolls. This fear is common and even they are working outside the country, they make sure they are in their homes to cast their votes. A section of political leaders take advantage of this situation and keep the fear alive,” he added.
Hafizur Rahman (26) has never missed any election and has voted for the fifth time this year. A voter in Jania constituency, Hafizur, who works with an NGO, travelled over 150 km to his home to exercise his franchise as he fears that if he doesn’t vote, there will be D-mark before his name on the electoral list. “This is a common apprehension in my village. If we don’t vote, the authorities might mark D (doubtful voter) before my name on the electoral list. Both my parents are government employee but there is D-mark before my grandmother’s name in the voting list. This is the reason minority people never miss to vote,” he added.
Jabedur Rahman, another youth from Barpeta, travelled from Bangalore to Assam three days ago just to vote. “It is only fear. A fear that if we don’t vote our name might be deleted from the electoral list. That’s why I travelled from Karnataka,” Jabedur, who works as a daily wager, said.
In the last assembly election, the number of Muslim voters was marginally higher (85%) than 2021 who cast their votes. “In 2016 there was the Modi wave, which led to a high degree of polarization and that is why more Muslim voters were out to vote. This time, there was no Modi wave and that is why there is a decrease in their turnout,” Rahman added.