Dividing voters on communal line may have been the most important strategy of the Bharatiya Janata Party in poll-bound West Bengal. However, there is no dearth of political pundits who are of the view that this may prove a double-edged weapon for it as the state has around 30 per cent minorities’ votes.
If the election becomes a straight fight between the BJP and Trinamool Congress the votes of Congress-Left Front alliance would shrink further. In the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections the Left parties have virtually been decimated and their entire votes have got shifted to the BJP. In contrast the Congress performed somewhat better ,especially in the Muslim-dominated districts of Malda and Murshidabad.
For example, the Left Front and Congress contested the 2016 Assembly election together. While the Left fielded candidates in over 200 seats it could win only 26.
Contrary to that, the alliance partner Congress put up candidates in only 90 seats, but managed to win 44 of them. This was the situation when Left was considered as a strong cadre-based party. The BJP in that Assembly poll fared poorly and could win only three seats and got around 17 per cent of votes.
The Congress could manage to survive the Mamata Banerjee wave largely because a sizeable number of Muslims threw their weight behind it.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha election the Left, which contested alone, got completely decimated. It could save deposit in only one out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP, whose vote share touched 40 per cent mark, bagged 18 while Mamata’s party could win only 22 seats.
Actually, TMC’s votes did not shrink much, but the BJP’s increased much largely because of the shift in the Left votes.
Two years later Mamata’s vote share in the 2021 Assembly election does not appear to come down any further. Apparently, the BJP is not going to get votes from any other section, though it is trying its level best to woo Matuas and tribals.
If the battle is fought on the communal line as the BJP would like it, a large number of Muslim votes, which otherwise voted for the Congress may shift towards the TMC. The Congress, which is trying its level best to improve its tally, may be a big loser. This would be the situation when the state Congress president, Adheer Ranjan Chaudhary, who is also the leader of the party in Lok Sabha, won the last year’s Lok Sabha poll from Baharampur, which has a big Muslim Population. The party won another seat also from this very region.
If the communal card is overplayed there is fear that the Muslim votes of this belt would surely tilt towards the TMC. Mamata already has control over the minorities’ votes elsewhere in West Bengal.
However, what may go to the disadvantage of Mamata is the likely entry of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen into the fray. Though the party has lost several of its leaders, including Anwar Pasha, in the recent past– they have crossed over to the TMC– yet the victory in five seats in the Bihar Assembly election last November has emboldened Owaisi.
But the problem with Owaisi is that the AIMIM has lost all these leaders in West Bengal after the November 10 Assembly election results in Bihar. They directly blamed Owaisi for depriving the Grand Alliance a chance from coming to power in Bihar by a narrow margin. Now they have resolved to whole-heartedly back Mamata Banerjee and prevent the BJP from coming to power. The saffron brigade, on its part, would like to see AIMIM field its candidates in maximum number of seats.
(Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. Views expressed in the article are of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of TheNewsweb)