With just months left before West Bengal goes to polls, the Trinamool Congress seems to be battling a political opponent that is yet announce its presence in the political field.
As things stand now, the West Bengal ruling party’s greatest fear is of an invisible and unknown enemy that can split the minority votes, which are essential for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to return to power in 2021.
As per the 2011 census, Muslims comprise 27% of the population in the State. Since 2011, the minorities backed the Trinamool Congress.
While Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has already claimed that it will be contesting in the State, there are several other outfits who are keen to fish in troubled waters .
“At this moment the greatest fear for Trinamool Congress is division of minority votes. Mamata Banerjee is well aware that any split of minority voters can make things more difficult for her,” Biswanath Chakraborty, Professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University and well known political observer, said.
Prof. Chakraborty said it is not only the AMIM but other parties and the group led by Abbas Siddique of the Furfura Sharif, a prominent religious shrine for Bengali Muslims, who are keen to test the political waters. In terms of physical connect, Abbas Siddique has a greater support base than the AIMIM which has never contested polls in the State.
Last week West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury along with Leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan visited Furfura Sharif.
Interestingly, a number of AIMIM leaders, including Anwar Pasha, joined the ruling party in the presence of TMC leaders and ministers Bratya Basu and Malay Ghatak.
Prof Chakraborty said till a few months ago, the Trinamool Congress was confident of getting the support of the entire minority community. He also pointed out that Mr. Pasha had been arrested by the West Bengal government in December 2019 for participating in violent anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests.
“Now things have come to such a pass that Trinamool Congress is making a big deal about about a few AIMIM leaders joining them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Left and Congress are also vying for the minority vote, highlighting the “competitive communalism” of the Trinamool Congress. A section of Left leaders is maintaining that the silence of Trinamool Congress on crucial issues concerning minorities like triple talak and Ram temple construction have exposed the party before minorities.
The shift of minority votes has been synonymous with change of power in the State. In the 2006 Assembly polls the Left Front recorded one of its biggest victories, winning 233 of the 294 seats in the State. Soon after, however, it faced the twin challenges of the Sachar Committee report that showed the poor economic and social status of minorities in the State and the forcible land acquisition where peasants from minority community felt that their land was being taken away.
The shift of the Muslim vote towards the Trinamool Congress was complete by 2011, bringing to an end 34 years of the Left regime. “After ten years of overwhelming support of minorities the Trinamool Congress is facing litmus test of keeping its minority votes intact,” Prof. Chakraborty said.