KOLKATA: Signalling new players' entry in the 2021 fray in Bengal politics, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi's Sunday visit to Furfura Sharif in Hooghly district to meet a prominent Islamic cleric has threatened to chip away at the ruling Trinamool Congress' minority vote bank.
The meeting between Abbas Siddiqui, the cleric who has been speaking out against the state government and planning to float a minority outfit of his own, and Owaisi is said to be significant with the advent of new equations in Bengal’s political landscape. Siddiqui has not yet announced whether his outfit would form an alliance with the AIMIM or his followers would contest under the banner of Owaisi’s party in the upcoming elections. "Our party will participate in the 2021 Assembly elections with Siddiqui," said Owaisi.
AIMIM’s state secretary Zameerul Hassan said the party will field candidates in the 2021 Assembly elections. "We are yet to prepare the list of the constituencies where we will contest," he said.
Muslims, who form 31 percent of the total electorate, are the deciding factor in at least 85 Assembly seats and in 30 more seats, they have a significant presence. Traditionally, the minority votes are largely seen as the ruling TMC’s strong support-base since 2011. The clerics of Furfura Sharif have had an influence over minority voters in south Bengal. The community shifted their preference from to the TMC in 2011 resulting in the change of guard in the state after the 34 years’ regime of the Left Front.
After putting up a good show in last year’s Bihar Assembly elections by bagging five seats, the AIMIM is now eyeing the upcoming Bengal polls and the party is keen on leaving its footprint on the politically volatile soil of Bengal, said Hassan.
At Furfura Sharif, West Bengal in a meeting with Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui sb, Pirzada Naushad Siddiqui sb, Pirzada Baizid Amin sb & Janab Sabir Ghaffar sb pic.twitter.com/lptUX24JnJ— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) January 3, 2021
"Owaisi wanted to keep his meeting with Siddiqui secret because we were apprehensive that the TMC-led state government would stop him from exiting the airport. He went straight to Hooghly from the airport, met Siddiqui and flew back to Hyderabad," said Hassan.
Hassan has already started organising workers’ meet in minority-dominated districts in the state for the last two weeks to consolidated minority votes in favour of the AIMIM.
Owaisi’s meeting with Siddiqui evoked a sharp reaction from the TMC. "It is known that AIMIM is nothing but a proxy of the BJP. Owaisi is well aware that Muslims in the state are Bengali speaking and they will not support him. His attempt to forge ties with Siddiqui will prove futile," said TMC MP and spokesperson Saugata Roy.