The 'Ayodhya' Setback: Don't Discount The Demographics Of Faizabad Constituency

Deepanjali Bhas

Jun 13, 2024, 02:59 PM | Updated Jun 14, 2024, 11:43 AM IST

The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. (VHP/X)
The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. (VHP/X)
  • A closer look at its poll results and religious demographics.
  • Ayodhya’s results in the just-concluded parliamentary polls saw the shocking defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate, Lallu Singh, its two-time Member of Parliament (MP).

    The rival Samajwadi Party candidate emerged as the winner, causing nationwide shock and sorrow. Videos showing pujaris with tears in their eyes and raging trolls against Ayodhya voters have flooded social media.

    But Ayodhya is not just the temple town alone. As a parliamentary constituency it is part of Faizabad constituency, Uttar Pradesh. And there’s the rub because Faizabad has five assembly constituencies that elect its MP of which Ayodhya itself was won by the BJP candidate. 

    Preliminary data available shows that Ayodhya itself was won by Lallu Singh who got 104,000 votes as against 1 lakh votes for Awadhesh Prasad. Which is why these results merit a closer look.

    At first, a broader population perspective — on 9 May 2024, when the findings of a study from the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) on religious demographics in various countries (1950 to 2015) were reported, showing a 7.8 per cent decline in the share of the majority Hindu population in India and an increase in Muslim population of 43.15 per cent during the period, campaigning for the Indian general elections was on in full swing.

    This alarming data point did not quite disturb many voters on the ground, remaining as a point of discussion and analytical writings by the intellectual class of the Left and the Right.

    [Source: Figure 6: Representation of Change in Majority Religious Denomination for SAARC+1 Countries (1950-2015). EAC PM Working Paper Series. Share of Religious Minorities A Cross Country Analysis -1950-2015]
    [Source: Figure 6: Representation of Change in Majority Religious Denomination for SAARC+1 Countries (1950-2015). EAC PM Working Paper Series. Share of Religious Minorities A Cross Country Analysis -1950-2015]

    And yet, if we look at the election results in several seats in India that were out on 4 June 2024, it does appear that this demographic skew might have impacted final results in many districts favouring parties of the opposition INDI Alliance as against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

    It is not the purpose of this article to assess critical factors at grassroot level like caste groups’ perceptions and unemployment that have resulted in the BJP reporting much lower than the expected number of seats overall, including the shock defeat in prestigious Ayodhya under Faizabad district that stunned most Indians.

    In this article, religious demographics alone as a factor is being considered with the example of Ayodhya, with available preliminary data.

    The state of Uttar Pradesh with an estimated 24 crore population is the most populated state in India. It is pertinent to note here that Hindus accounted for 80.61 per cent of UP’s population in 2001 while Muslims were 18.50 per cent.

    In 2011, the share of Hindus in the state’s population fell to 79.73 per cent while that of Muslims went up to 19.26 per cent. More than macro level data, it is at a local level that the impact of such demographic skews can be seen, especially in election results.

    Ayodhya (Faizabad Lok Sabha Constituency, Uttar Pradesh)

    Ayodhya, where the sacred Shri Ram Mandir was rebuilt after the humiliation of its destruction nearly 500 years ago, fulfilling a long-standing manifesto promise of the BJP, is one among the five assembly constituencies within the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

    Perhaps the biggest shocker among all BJP defeats in May 2024 was this one seat — where the Samajwadi Party’s Awadhesh Prasad beat the sitting MP from the BJP, Lallu Singh, who was elected twice since 2014 from here.

    The size of the Faizabad electorate is 1,927,459, and voter turnout on polling day (20 May  2024) was 59.14 per cent.

    BJP’s Lallu Singh got 499,722 votes as against the winning SP candidate Awadhesh Prasad at 554,289 votes, with the remaining votes divided among the Bahujan Samaj Party and other smaller parties. The victory margin was 54,567.

    If voter turnout in numbers can be considered as around 1,137,200, this margin might not be seen as particularly significant. But some demographic data may be instructive here — as per Census 2011, Hindus accounted for 84.75 per cent of Faizabad’s total population and Muslims were 14.80 per cent of the same.

    This was 13 years ago. Current numbers for assembly constituencies like Faizabad city are 69.88 per cent Hindu population and 28.32 per cent Muslims, in Rudauli Nagar Palika Parishad it is 40.27 per cent Hindu population and 58.88 per cent Muslim, Dariyabad in Barabanki district (which falls under the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency) has always been Muslim dominated (67.11 per cent in 2011 Census).

    Population data for the Ayodhya Nagar Palika Parishad is available only for 2011 — it shows 93.23 per cent of the area as Hindu and 6.19 per cent as Muslim, over a decade ago.

    These certainly are broad numbers but with three out of five constituencies in Faizabad having significant, if not majority Muslim populations, it does give an indication of the population demographics at work in the Faizabad constituency as a whole — a district that garnered international attention due to the inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya in January 2024 and then drew nation-wide shock after the general election results on 4 June 2024.

    Undeniably, local issues and existing caste divisions fanned by the SP campaign had an impact as did likely Singh’s comment during campaigning that BJP needed a full majority to amend the Indian Constitution which created apprehensions regarding caste-based reservations.

    That the winning SP candidate is from the Scheduled Caste Pasi community, a majority among the 21 per cent SC population in the constituency, also helped the SP.

    Nevertheless, the age-old truism that Hindus got divided by caste while an increased population voter base of Muslims than 2019 voted as one, still holds true.

    It shows that large population sets that vote in unison like Muslims do to fulfil their own sectarian interests can skew electoral results even in a seat considered unbeatable for any political party.

    Deepanjali Bhas is a former business correspondent with The Times of India, with professional experience in non-profit organizations and the corporate sector.

    Get Swarajya in your inbox.