KOLKATA: With an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, political parties in West Bengal are using all their cards to woo key ethnic groups in a never-before-seen social engineering to secure Lok Sabha seats.
With the Muslims solidly behind the Trinamool Congress, BJP has already locked horns with the ruling party to secure a slice of the Dalit Namasudra votes, which are crucial in over 11 Lok Sabha constituencies across south Bengal.
On the other hand, the ruling Trinamool Congress seems to have woken up to the importance of Hindi-speaking voters in urban Bengal and is trying hard to woo migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, who are credited with the BJP’s eye-catching performance in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Once a peripheral force in Bengal’s electoral and political landscape, the BJP is now seen as a credible challenger to the Trinamool in the run-up to the next general elections.
While the Hindi-speaking population in the state was around 7 per cent according to the 2011 census, the number is estimated to have risen to around 10 per cent in 2018. Of all the Hindi-speakers, the Marwaris are considered the richest and most influential, while the Biharis are also a key constituent of the state’s electorate.
The state government’s benevolence for the Biharis was recently in evidence during the Chhath Puja, as special arrangements were made not only in the ghats of the Ganga but also the ecologically sensitive Rabindra Sarobar lake despite howls of protest from environmentalists. The state government declared a two-day holiday for the Chhath festivities.
“I want to tell you that your Chhath Puja and our Durga Puja has no difference. I believe you all are very good people,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said at a recent event in the city.
The ruling party also set up All India Trinamool Congress Hindi Bhashi Prakosht, a dedicated cell for the Hindi-speakers, last month. “The way Mamata Banerjee has given a recognition to Hindi-speakers, they will come out in support of the Trinamool Congress in the general elections,” Sinha said.
However, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh decried TMC’s attempts to curry favour with the Hindi-speaking voters, saying, “This government seems keen on giving 15-day holiday for Durga Puja and another 2 days for Chhath Puja, but when it comes to dearness allowance and salary hike of government employees, they seem to turn away.”