NEW DELHI: The decision of the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen) to contest all the 294 Assembly seats in Bengal has irked the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and, according to TMC sources, this announcement has forced the party to go back to the drawing board to re-strategise its election strategy for the Bengal Assembly elections scheduled for 2021.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior TMC functionary said that as the AIMIM had decided to contest in Bengal, it may cause a huge dent for the TMC on at least 90 Assembly seats.
“The decision of the AIMIM has come as a great shock for the party; we were not expecting this. The TMC was expecting that at least 90% of the minority votes would come to its kitty because of the issue of NRC (National Register of Citizens), but now there would be a significant division of minority votes in many seats and as per preliminary estimates, about 90-95 seats would be affected by this decision. The TMC will now have to assess its strategies all over again and redraw different plans,” the senior TMC functionary said.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi earlier this week announced that his party would contest the Assembly elections in Bengal and this announcement came after a veiled attack by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who said that there was a political party and it was taking money from the BJP; it was from Hyderabad, not from West Bengal. She also talked about “some extremism coming out of some minorities” in Bengal.
Reacting to Mamata Banerjee’s comments, Owaisi said, “By making allegations against me, you are giving the message to Muslims of Bengal that Owaisi’s party has become a formidable force in the state. If Mamata Banerjee wants a fight, I will give it to her; win or lose, we will go ahead.”
TMC leaders called Owaisi a BJP stooge and said that AIMIM was deliberately contesting the Assembly elections in Bengal to help the BJP.
Speaking to this correspondent, a TMC leader from Bengal said, “What is the reason for Owaisi’s party to suddenly pop up in Bengal out of nowhere? His party has always been limited to Hyderabad, then why now Bengal? He is being planted by the BJP to divide the minority vote.”
However, AIMIM Bengal in-charge, Syed Asim Waqar told The Sunday Guardian that the party has been working in the state for the last three years and that the AIMIM has made a stronghold in at least 15 districts in the state. He said, “We have our workers in almost all the 23 districts of Bengal. We have organisational capabilities in almost all the blocks of West Bengal.”
“The AIMIM has seen significant growth in the state. We have a huge support base amongst the Muslim population in the state as they have realised the falsehood of Mamata Banerjee. She only indulges in appeasement politics and does nothing for the benefit of Muslims in the state. The decision of the AIMIM to contest in Bengal has rattled Mamata Banerjee because we are going to expose her falsehoods in the state,” Waqar said.
According to AIMIM leaders from Bengal, the party has already been working with local youths in districts like Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Howrah, Kolkata, Malda, Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Nadia to spread the ideology of the party among the youth of the minority community and establish their base.
AIMIM leaders also said that the party has its organisational structure for Bengal ready and that all the party functionaries of AIMIM for Bengal will be announced soon after the Jharkhand Assembly elections.
This development in Bengal politics is being keenly observed because the AIMIM could prove a major stumbling block for “Didi” who has been banking on minority votes in the state.
West Bengal has at least 30% of Muslim population in the state and at least 90 Assembly seats in the state are decided by minority voters. Traditionally, the minority votes were cast for the CPM, but later shifted to Mamata Banerjee’s TMC and this, according to political experts, has been reason behind the major success of the TMC.
Even in 2016, the TMC won in all the 90 minority dominated Assembly seats. And with the given amount of polarisation in the state, a minor swing in minority votes could cost Banerjee to lose a significant number of seats.