All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi seems to be warming up to Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee ahead of the state Assembly polls scheduled for early 2021.
Reportedly, the Hyderabad MP has told Mamata he will help her party Trinamul Congress defeat the BJP, which is making strong progress in the state. The AIMIM seeks to focus mainly on Muslim-dominated districts of Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur. Howrah also has sizeable Muslim population.
The AIMIM has been eyeing Bengal since it won five crucial seats in the Muslim-dominated Seemanchal region of Bihar, bagging 1.46 per cent of the total votes.
Realising the party could potentially dent her poll prospects, Mamata had earlier targeted the Hyderabad leader while addressing an event in Posta Bazaar.
She said: “If some goons from outside come to our state and terrorise you, all of you should unite and resist them. I promise we will stand by you. We believe in peace. But few people come to the state only during the elections to terrorise others. We won’t allow them to have a free run here.”
Terming the outsiders as a “divisive force”, she added they need to be defeated.
However, unfazed by the attacks, Owaisi has reportedly proposed a pre-poll pact with the chief minister.
Owaisi’s party has been subject to attacks from multiple quarters since the results of Bihar polls came out. The Congress and other parties criticised Owaisi, calling him BJP’s “B-team”, denting anti-saffron party votes.
His entry in Bengal politics has alarmed nearly all parties.
Trinamul MP Saugata Roy told Times Now the AIMIM had been sent by the BJP to reduce the vote share of the TMC, while Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the party will aim at polarising the society.
The CPI(M) and the Congress, which are contesting the Assembly poll as partners, even held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss a strategy for the elections.
The alliance is planning to reach out to community leaders and notable personalities belonging to the minority community. An outreach programme on National Minorities Day on December 18 is also on the cards.
Muslim votes play a major role in Bengal politics. They account for over 30 per cent of the vote share in the state and are undeniably a deciding factor on who gets the CM’s chair.
An erroneous demarcation during Partition had resulted in Muslim-dominated districts Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur becoming a part of India, while Hindu-dominated Kulna and Sylhet went to Bangladesh, then East Pakistan.
In the 2016 Bengal Assembly polls, the Congress-CPI(M) alliance had won 34 of 76 seats from these districts. With AIMIM making inroads, a major share of these votes could very well go their way.
According to Owaisi, the economic and social conditions of Bengal Muslims is “worse than many places in the country”. He had earlier said: “Malda and Murshidabad, parts of north and south Bengal, have a considerable Muslim population. Muslims dominate many of these Assembly segments. And, they are looking for an alternative force.”
Mamata has so far managed to consolidate the Muslim votes with her continuous appeasement tactics. However, with Owaisi entering the arena, the votes could very well get split. Also, the Hindus have already consolidated behind the BJP.