KOLKATA: With large number of Muslims in West Bengal flocking to the saffron brigade, the BJP is planning to change its strategy towards them in view of “Mission 2016”, to win the state Assembly polls. The party is aware of the fact that Muslims make up around 30 per cent of the state’s electorate, majority of whom are Bengali speaking folks living in the rural areas. More crucially, Muslim voters determine the outcome in at least 140 of the total 294 Assembly seats. The influx of Muslims into the BJP ranks, post the LS polls, has seen around three lakh people belonging to the community joining the party mainly in the districts.
In Birbhum district, a stronghold of the ruling TMC with a powerful district chief like Anubrata Mondal, more than 50,000 Muslims deserted the Trinamool to join the BJP leading to bloody clashes in which five BJP Muslims workers were killed by alleged TMC goons after the general elections. Also, a large number of Muslims from the Left parties, mainly the CPM, are joining the BJP as the Marxists have failed to protect them from the TMC.
In North Bengal districts of Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri as well as Nadia in South Bengal, Muslims are opting for the saffron brigade. Neither the BJP central leadership nor the party’s state unit expected such a large influx of Bengali Muslims into the party ranks. The BJP West Bengal incharge Siddharth Nath Singh, told Express, “We will certainly keep raising the issue of Mamata Banerjee pandering to the Muslims. But we will now highlight the fact about Muslims being deprived during her tenure. Unless they are brought into the mainstream of development, their conditions will never change. The TMC Government has totally failed in this regard. However, as we have realised, Bengali Muslims in West Bengal also resent the presence and infiltration of Bangladeshis. They too like others are losing jobs and feeling threatened.”
However, he made it clear that there would be no change in the BJP stand as far as infiltrators were concerned as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his LS poll campaign here, particularly in the border districts. Singh said, “Even the Supreme Court has observed it is a silent invasion on India.” There was a huge controversy about packing off Bangladeshis once the BJP came to power during the Lok Sabha poll campaign. And Mamata had dared Modi to send back even one Bengali to Bangladesh as long as she remained alive. Attempting to deconstruct the sudden trend among Muslims in the state to embrace the saffron party, which was quite unlike the case with the other states, Singh said, “Actually these minorities were earlier with the Left parties. After the rout of the CPM-led Left Front they are feeling insecure. Their aspirations were never fulfilled. In addition, their attitude towards the BJP is changing. Otherwise in many LS ok Sabha constituencies, where Muslims are in substantial numbers, we would not have got so many votes.”
“The voting pattern indicated that a large number of minorities had voted for the BJP during the Lok Sabha polls. Moreover, the victory of Shamik Battacharya from the Basirhat Dakshin Assembly seat, which has around 45 per cent Muslims voters, is a case in point,” he pointed out.
The presence of large number of Muslims at BJP chief Amit Shah’s Victoria House rally has also given a ray of hope to the BJP. Despite repeated threats from the local TMC leaders, Muslims hailing from even far-flung districts like South Dinajpur came to hear Shah, besides a large number from the adjoining districts of North and South 24 Parganas.Barring the Congress stronghold of Murshidabad and Maldah districts, the BJP has been able to make inroads among Muslims in all the other districts. Owing to its success in all other districts among the minorities, the BJP is enthused and for that the party is going to change its orientation as far as campaigning among the minorities is concerned.