KOLKATA: If the high turnout of Muslim voters witnessed at BJP chief Amit Shah’s rally here on Sunday was any indication, it does appear that the minority community West Bengal has switched its loyalty to the saffron outfit.
Not only from the adjoining district of North and South 24 Parganas, but also from faraway districts such as Dakshin Dinajpur in North Bengal, the Muslim population showed up in large numbers to listen to Shah.
There was also a huge turnout of Muslims from Birbhum, a stronghold of the ruling Trinmool Congress (TMC), where minority villages en bloc have been joining the saffron brigade after the Lok Sabha polls, despite the ruling party unleashing violence on them.
At the rally, Shah personally handed over financial aid to the family members of the minority community, whose kin were killed by the TMC. Among those, who received compensation, included Sheikh Enamul, father of Josimuddin; Shaukat Ali, father of Sheikh Tausif; Sheikh Rahamatullah, father of Sheikh Inamul; and Ajina Bibi, wife of Rahim Sheikh.
Well aware that the Muslims constituted 30 per cent of the state’s electorate, who were once divided among the Left and the TMC, Shah exhorted them to join the “mainstream of development”. The BJP’s minority wing has recently seen a 50 per cent increase in its membership and the party has been making dents in Muslim villages, particularly in South Bengal, that had voted en masse for the TMC in the 2011 Assembly polls after supporting the CPM-led Left Front for decades.
Majority of the Muslims switched loyalty to the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC after she promised “poribarton” (change). “We voted for the TMC in 2011 after it promised “poribartan”. Now, we realise that we made a mistake. After joining the BJP in 2013, the TMC leaders had threatened to murder us and rape our women. We came here risking our lives,” many Muslims, who came from Baruipur in South 24 Parganas, said.
Noticing the huge presence of Muslims at his rally, Shah 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.
Making it clear that the party did not consider the minority community as mere vote bank like the Left and the TMC, the BJP said it wanted them to be part of the development bandwagon, along with rest of the country.
Shamik Bhattacharya, the BJP’s lone MLA in the state Assembly, said, “The Muslims here have realised that it was time for them to move forward, instead of remaining poor bidi workers and daily wage labourers in farm lands. They are joining us, knowing we do not resort to political hypocrisy.”