AIMIM Supremo, Asaduddin Owaisi is gearing up for the run-up to 2021 Assembly polls. He recently visited Bengal on January 3, 2021, to visit the Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui. This has raised many questions over the secular fabric of the state of Bengal. The politics of polarization and communalism has just begun.
Who will the Bengali Muslim vote for?
This is a million-dollar question in Bengal today. The politically educated Muslim of Bengal is different from the Muslims elsewhere.
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Their issues are different, they maintain a secular outlook on public platforms. They had been voting for development and not religion until now. The times have changed or not, only the election result can tell.
What had Bengal been voting for?
West Bengal Legislative Assembly election was held last in 2016 for the 294 seats of the Vidhan Sabha. AIMIM leader, Barrister Asaduddin Owaisi had chosen to refrain from the elections back then, in the hope that Mamata’s Trinamool Congress wins without hindrance. He wanted Trinamool to work for the minority community of state or rather he wanted the rightist BJP to lose. Of the 294 seats in Bengal, some 60-70 are from Muslim dominated areas. TMC won a whopping 211 back then. This means TMC had the support of both the Hindus and the Muslims.
The Muslim anguish against TMC
The Bengali Muslim had been voting for TMC till now. They voted for TMC in the hope of better jobs, better housing, and a better standard of living. The hope with which they voted TMC to power, is now shattered after 5 years. There is unemployment, poverty, and distress.
In the decade of TMC rule, if we focus on just Kolkata, the areas like Salt Lake, Sector V, Rajarhat, Newtown saw a revamped face. The housing projects gave not just shelter at a subsidized price but also much better amenities and standard of living. While the Muslim dominated localities of Topsia, Raja Bazar, Park Circus remained neglected and backward. As they say, “inequality, real or imagined, is the root cause for all revolutions.” The time is ripe for such a revolution in West Bengal. The Bengali Muslim has lost the faith it had put forth in TMC. They are now looking for a new leader, who can actually work for their betterment and not just woo them for votes. Where will this disgruntled Bengali Muslim go now? Congress and CPI(M) have no credible ground either.
The lookout for a new leader for the minorities
In this lookout for a new Muslim leader, if Asaduddin Owaisi gains considerable leverage, and wins a majority of the Muslim dominated seats, AIMIM will become a big player in Bengal. Gaining an edge over 60 seats is no small deal in the 294 seat assembly. All major parties of Bengal, be it TMC, BJP, Congress, or CPI(M), will be looking forward to AIMIM to form a government in 2021.
The political current in Bengal at present
There are five major district zones in Bengal- the Hills, North Bengal, Central Bengal, Jangalmahal, and South Bengal. It is an oft quoted saying in Bengal that the party which wins South Bengal rules the Whole of Bengal. So the key to West Bengal lies in South Bengal.
BJP has made significant progress in this major political division capturing some 40% votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. To cross the magic number, both TMC and BJP have a tough fight here. Owaisi can emerge as the x-factor in this tough fight. The one-party which gains even a little external help, will stand a considerable chance to win. So both BJP and TMC would need the support of AIMIM. Even if the chief ministerial seat looks far, Owaisi can definitely play the role of kingmaker in Bengal.
Now if Owaisi has to reap the benefits of the fertile ground in Bengal, he has to gather support from the Muslims of Jangmahal and South Bengal.
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