KOLKATA: A paradigm shift among Muslims in West Bengal is being noticed as large of them turned up to listen to BJP national president Amit Shah at his rally here on Sunday.
Not only from the adjoining district of North and South 24 Parganas but Muslims in groups came from faraway districts like Dakshin Dinajpur in north Bengal. But a huge group came from Birbhum, a strong hold of the ruling Trinmool Congress where minority villages en bloc have been joining the saffron brigade after the Lok Sabha polls despite armed attacks on them.
For the first time in the state Muslim family members of those allegedly killed by TMC workers recently were given financial aid by the BJP. Before he started his speech Amit Shah personally handed it over to Sheikh Enamul, father of Josimuddin, Shaukat Ali, father of Sheikh Tausif, Sheikh Rahamatullah, father of Sheikh Inamul, and Ajina Bibi, wife of Rahim Sheikh, all of whom are from Parui and Ilambajar in Birbhum district.
With a state with around 30 percent Muslim voters, majority of which were divided among the Marxists and the TMC, the BJP's call was clear asking them to join the "mainstream of development".
The BJP's minority wing too has noticed a 50 percent increase in its members and the party has been making dents in Muslim villages particularly in south Bengal, once a fortress of the former Marxist rulers and till the other day TMC's main vote bank.
Majority of them who had for decades voted for the CPI(M)-led Left but responded to West Bengal chief minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee's call for "poribarton" (change) are disillusioned and felt cheated. Many of the Muslims who came from Baruipur in South 24 Parganas said, "We had voted for TMC which promised 'poribartan' in 2011 but now realize, we made a mistake. Since we had joined the BJP in 2013, we are being threatened with murder and rape of our women by local TMC leaders. But still we took the risk and came."
Noticing the presence of such unexpected large number of Muslims at his rally, Amit Shah too stopped his speech for a few minutes when the "azaan" was sounded through the loudspeaker from the age old Tipu Sultan mosque at Dharamtalla Street-Chowringhee crossing. He even asked the crowd to keep quiet till the "namaz" was over.
The BJP's message to the Muslims in West Bengal is clear that the party did not consider them as mere vote banks like the Marxists and the TMC and let them remain poor but want them to part of the development bandwagon along with rest of the country.
Said Shamik Bhattacharya, BJP's lone MLA in the state Assembly, "The Muslims in our state have realized that it was time for them to move forward instead of remaining poor bidi industry workers and daily wage labourers in farm lands. They are joining us knowing we do not indulge in hypocritical politics."