KOLKATA: While the so-called Congress-Left coalition is yet to take off, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee has firmed up her electoral alliance with a far stronger group — the Jamaate-Uleyame-Hind (JUH) led by Siddiqullah Chowdury — in a silent way. Mamata held a secret meeting with Siddiqullah at her chamber in the state secretariat Nabanna on Wednesday and more or less struck an electoral alliance. Though Siddiqullah asked for 12 seats in the forthcoming state Assembly polls, Mamata promised only five but also assured that elected MLAs from his party would certainly be given a berth in her cabinet.
Siddiqullah confirmed the meeting and told Express on Friday, “Jamaate-Uleyame-Hind is a social organisation. Our political party is All India United Democratic Front and we will contest the Assembly elections from this party with an alliance with the TMC.”
When Siddiqullah reached Nabanna, Mamata immediately summoned her Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim and party general secretary and Education Minister Partha Chatterjee. Together they discussed the poll strategy keeping in mind the 29 per cent Muslim voters in West Bengal. Out of 294 Assembly constituencies in the state, Muslims, if they vote together in a block, are a deciding factor in 140 seats.
Moreover, out of 23 districts, Muslims are a majority in five districts — North and South Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad and Birbhum. The Muslim population in districts like Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas is sizeable and in many rural constituencies they decide the electoral result.
In November last year, Mamata attended a public meeting of JUH to express solidarity with Muslims. She even told them that if need be she would march to New Delhi to protect their rights. Siddiqullah said, “Mamata asked me to work along with the TMC for development of the state and she needed efficient persons from our community. In this state, more work is needed to be done for the minorities. She has worked for Muslims.
“We are satisfied with her work. We are beside her. We have seen the CPI(M) for 34 years which took us for a ride. We can never align either with the Congress-Left alliance or the BJP. We have discussed in detail about sharing of seats for the elections. But I will not reveal the details about that now. We will again meet and discuss in detail about that issue and hope the outcome will be positive,” he said. The Muslim leader refused to comment on whether he would join TMC, but said he would definitely partner with TMC.
To ensure support of the Muslim vote bank such that their votes are not split, Mamata invited him to the TMC’s general council meeting at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on February 12, to which Siddiqullah agreed. “Both Mamata and Firhad have invited me to that meeting and I will certainly attend,” he said.
By obtaining Siddiqullah’s support, Mamata has played a master stroke but only time will tell how much clout Sidduqullah has over the Muslim community.