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Political parties eyeing minority community votes in West Bengal

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 - 10:20am IST | Place: Kolkata | Agency: PTI

Political parties like Trinamool Congress, Congress and the Left are eyeing a greater share of around 27% Muslim votes in West Bengal after Narendra Modi's ascendance in national politics. The Muslim votes would be aligned against Modi and the Trinamool Congress and other anti-BJP parties would try to make capital of it, political analysts said. Trinamool Congress feels that in Bengal it is in the best position to counter BJP.

"From Bengal, apart from Trinamool Congress who is there to counter BJP, nationally? The Congress has turned into a sign board here. The Left has done nothing for the Muslims.
So the entire vote will come to us," Trinamool Congress leader Sultan Ahmed claimed. Congress leader Abdul Mannan told PTI, "The anti-Modi votes will come to the Congress as it is only our party which can stop Modi."

Political analyst Udayan Bandopadhya feels, "The biggest gainer may be both the Congress and the Trinamool Congress in Bengal. The Congress and the TMC will stand to gain in north and south Bengal respectively."

The CPI(M), on the other hand, feels that Muslims, who had deserted the Left, would come back to the party's fold in this election. "Yes it is true that Muslims had deserted us. But in this election a section will be back as they are disappointed with TMC regime," CPI(M) leader Moinul Hasan said. The Muslim community in the state, which plays a key role in the outcome of over 20 Lok Sabha seats out of 42, is courted aggressively by all frontline political parties.

Bandopadhyay said the recent outbursts of Modi against Mamata Banerjee would also help in the swing of Muslim votes in her favour. Whether the CPI(M)-led Left Front would be able to bite into the anti-Modi vote pie is the question doing the rounds in political circles. Muslim clerics like the Imam of Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Bukhari and Bengal Tipu Sultan Mosque Imam Barkati both had appealed to the Muslims to vote in favour of Mamata Banerjee.

"After the elections, Trinamool Congress will play a vital role in national politics. So we want that all the secular votes including Muslim votes should go in favour of Trinamool," Barkati had said.
Similarly, Bukhari said, "As Trinamool is in a position to win most of the seats, so we have asked the secular voters to vote for TMC in Bengal," Bhukari told PTI. The BJP leadership, however, seems not much perturbed over the Muslim votes bypassing the party.

"You should always remember one thing. If there is a polarisation of one section (minority), then there is a reverse polarisation of another section (majority) too," BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh explained. The north Bengal districts of Malda, South Dinajpur and North Dinajpur have around 60-80% Muslim population. Whereas south Bengal's Murshidabad has 90% Muslim concentration followed by South 24-Parganas, North 24-Parganas, East Midnapore at 40%. In Kolkata, Birbhum and Hooghly have 35% Muslim population.

The Muslim community had backed the Left regime till 2011 when its support veered towards the Trinamool Congress aided by the Sachar Committee's revelation of the dismal condition of the community in the state and the anti-land acquisition movement. Banerjee's aggressive courting of the Muslims by granting allowance to 30,000 imams of the state, which has been termed by the Calcutta High Court as unconstitutional, and announcing a slew of development measure for them also helped.


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