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West Bengal: Why Did Muslims Vote En Bloc For Mamata Banerjee?

Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow

NEW DELHI—The Muslim voters in West Bengal have displayed extreme maturity. Instead of getting swayed by the emotional appeals of the Muslim parties-AIMIM of Hyderabad-based MP Asaduddin Owaisi and RSMP of  Peerzada Abbas Siddiqui, a Muslim religious leader revered by locals, Muslims preferred to vote for Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee to keep BJP away from winning the political power in this politically important state. (Meanwhile, mamata Banerjee took oath as Chief Minister for third time in a row on Wednesday)

Though the number of Muslim MLAs in the newly elected assembly has gone down to 42 from 56 in 2011 and 59 in 2016, the number of Muslim MLAs in Trinamool Congress (TMC) has gone up from 32 in 2016 to 41 now. Nawsad Siddiqui is the lone MLA having won RSMP platform, making the total number of Muslim MLAs in the state to 42. TMC in all won 213 seats followed by BJP 77. Elections in two seats-Jangipur and Samserganj-both in Murshidabad district-have been deferred due to death of two candidates there.

If Muslim voters played their cards well, Mamata Banerjee also chose the candidates in Muslim areas to outsmart the BJP whose only plank in the just-conclude assembly polls was to polarize the Hindu-Muslim votes. While Mamata in 2016 assembly polls had fielded more than 53  Muslim candidates, in 2021 she fielded only 42 Muslim candidates, particularly from seats where she was sure Muslim candidates would win the elections. Her strategy paid well and 41 of her Muslim candidates were victorious. In 2016, only 32 Muslim candidates from Mamata’s party had won polls.

It was not only in Kolkata and South Bengal districts that Muslim voters supported Mamata’s party but also in Muslim-majority Malda and Murshidabad so far considered to be bastion of the Congress because of the developmental works done by late Congress stalwart Ghani Khan Chaudhary. Congress that had won 18 seats in 2016 assembly elections from the two districts suffered a severe jolt as it drew blank as also the left parties that failed to win any of the seats in Muslim majority areas. TMC got 26 seats in Malda and Murshidabad district that were earlier held by the Congress and Left. It would not be wrong to say that there was “Mamata tsunami” in the Muslim belt of the state.

Owaisi, who initially tried to forge an electoral alliance with Furfura Sharief head, had ultimately to go it alone after Furfura head Abbas Siddiqui refused to play in his hands. AIMIM fielded five candidates but all of them lost badly as the Muslims rejected them. Of late, Owaisi is being accused of allegedly working at the behest of BJP to divide Muslim votes, a claim which the Hyderabad MP has been denying very strongly. ISF floated by Furfura Sharief head, who fielded 26 candidates in alliance with Congress and left parties, had also to eat dust as only one of its candidates Naushad Siddiqui managed to win and the rest lost the battle badly.

The big question is why did this change in Muslim’s political behaviour and voting pattern in West Bengal where they were earlier divided between TMC, Congress and the Left? If political analysts are to be believed, it is the polarizing language and slogans of national BJP leaders right from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president J P Nadda that made Muslims to vote en bloc for TMC. Kolkata-based political commentator Zafeer Ahmed says that there was a feeling among WB Muslims that if BJP came to power, they will face the same problems as the Muslims are facing under the BJP rule in UP.

“So, Muslim voters decided to vote in favour of TMC candidates only because Mamata, despite all her weaknesses, has the capacity to lead all the communities and religious groups together”, he said. According to Ahmed, Muslims avoided voting for Congress candidates because they knew that Congress is took weak in the state and even if it got a few seats from Muslim areas, it will not be able to form government in the state.

“So, the best option for the Muslims was Mamata’s party and they voted for its candidates very carefully,” said Ahmed.

He said that Muslims played an important role in stopping Modi-Shah’s jaggernaut in West Bengal and saved the state from falling prey to communal politics of the BJP.

Ahmed said that though Muslims had been voting for TMC since 2011, it was for the first time that they went en bloc with TMC, divorcing the Congress and the Left altogether. He said that Muslims had also good experience with Mamata ever since she came to power in 2011. While she has been sympathetic to the Muslims, she also gave monthly stipend of Rs. 2500 to over 60,000 Imams and muezzins all over the state, besides declaring Urdu as the second official language in Muslim-dominated districts. It was because of these reasons BJP leaders sarcastically called “Mumtaz Begum”, to polarize voters.

Though the general Bengali Hindu population, by and large, believes in peaceful co-existence with other communities, Ahmed says that a small section accounting for about 12 per cent of the Hindu population are migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) who are anti-Muslim for certain reasons. And the BJP, according to political analysts, has drawn its workers and leaders primarily from this group who are always ready to support those working on anti-Muslim agenda. Unfortunately, they have been occupying important positions in the state because of their superior education but Mamata has been able to keep them in check ever since her ascendancy to power in the state in 2011.

Welfare Party of India (WPI) president Dr. Qasim Rasul Ilyas, who had fielded four candidates from his party’s ticket and all of them lost, also echoed the views of Ahmed. “The spectre of BJP coming to power in West Bengal made Muslims to go with Mamata Banerjee, and reject all other parties to whom they had been supporting in the past,” he said.

Dr. Ilyas said that assembly election results in five states have demonstrated that “federalism and regional parties with a strong regional identity were the only answer to stop Modi-Shah’s Hindutva politics”.

He said that the election results have also shown that an alliance of all secular political parties can combat and defeat the BJP in the country.

Here is the complete list of Muslim MLAs in  the newly formed assembly in West Bengal with their constituencies and parties.

1. Amdanga – RAFIQUR RAHAMAN (All India Trinamool Congress)

2. Baduria – ABDUR RAHIM QUAZI (All India Trinamool Congress)

3. Basirhat Uttar – RAFIKUL ISLAM MONDAL (All India Trinamool Congress)

4. Beldanga – HASANUZZAMAN SK (All India Trinamool Congress)

5. Bhagabangola – IDRIS ALI (All India Trinamool Congress)

6. Bhangar – MD. NAWSHAD SIDDIQUE (Indian Secular Front)

7. Bharatpur – HUMAYUN KABIR (All India Trinamool Congress)

8. Canning Purba – SAOKAT MOLLA (All India Trinamool Congress)

9. Chakulia – AZAD MINHAJUL ARFIN (All India Trinamool Congress)

10. Chapra – RUKBANUR RAHMAN (All India Trinamool Congress)

11. Chopra – HAMIDUL RAHAMAN (All India Trinamool Congress)

12. Debra – HUMAYUN KABIR (All India Trinamool Congress)

13. Deganga – RAHIMA MONDAL (All India Trinamool Congress)

14. Domkal – JAFIKUL ISLAM (All India Trinamool Congress)

15. Farakka – MANIRUL ISLAM (All India Trinamool Congress)

16. Goalpokhar – MD. GHULAM RABBANI (All India Trinamool Congress)

17. Hariharpara – NIAMOT SHEIKH (All India Trinamool Congress)

18. Harischandrapur – TAJMUL HOSSAIN (All India Trinamool Congress)

19. Haroa – ISLAM SK NURUL (HAJI) (All India Trinamool Congress)

20. Islampur – ABDUL KARIM CHOWDHARY (All India Trinamool Congress)

21. Itahar – MOSARAF HUSSEN (All India Trinamool Congress)

22. Jalangi – ABDUR RAZZAK (All India Trinamool Congress)

23. Kaliganj – NASIRUDDIN AHAMED (LAL) (All India Trinamool Congress)

24. Kasba – AHMED JAVED KHAN (All India Trinamool Congress)

25. Ketugram – Sekh Sahonawez (All India Trinamool Congress)

26. Kolkata Port – Firhad Hakim (All India Trinamool Congress)

27. Kumarganj – TORAF HOSSAIN MANDAL (All India Trinamool Congress)

28. Lalgola – ALI MOHAMMAD (All India Trinamool Congress)

29. Magrahat Paschim – GIAS UDDIN MOLLA (All India Trinamool Congress)

30. Malatipur – ABDUR RAHIM BOXI (All India Trinamool Congress)

31. Metiaburuz – ABDUL KHALEQUE MOLLA (All India Trinamool Congress)

32. Monteswar – CHOWDHURY SIDDIQULLAH (All India Trinamool Congress)

33. Mothabari – YEASMIN SABINA (All India Trinamool Congress)

34. Murarai – DR MOSARRAF HOSSAIN (All India Trinamool Congress)

35. Nakashipara – Kallol Khan (All India Trinamool Congress)

36. Naoda – SAHINA MOMTAZ KHAN (All India Trinamool Congress

37. Panskura Paschim – PHIROJA BIBI (All India Trinamool Congress)

38. Raghunath Ganj – Akhruzzaman (All India Trinamool Congress)

39. Raninagar – ABDUL SOUMIK HOSSAIN (All India Trinamool Congress)

40. Rejinagar – RABIUL ALAM CHOWDHURY (All India Trinamool Congress)

41. Sonarpur Uttar – FIRDOUSI BEGUM (All India Trinamool Congress)

42. Sujapur – Md Abdul Ghani (All India Trinamool Congress)

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