I examine how the historical legacies of inter-ethnic complementarity and competition interact with contemporary electoral competition in shaping patterns of ethnic violence. Using local comparisons within Gujarat, a single Indian state known for both its non-violent local traditions and for widespread ethnic pogroms in 2002, I provide evidence that where political competition was focused upon towns where ethnic groups have historically competed, there was a rise in the propensity for ethnic rioting and increased electoral support for the incumbent party complicit in the violence. However, where political competition was focused in towns that historically enjoyed inter-ethnic complementarities, there were fewer ethnic riots, and these towns also voted against the incumbent. These historic legacies proved to be important predictors of the identity of the winner even in very close electoral races. I argue that these results reflect the role local inter-ethnic economic relations can play in altering the nature and the benefits of political campaigns that encourage ethnic violence.