Bengal BJP cites examples from the Arab world to counter anti-CAA sentiment among Muslims

The strategy for Bengal comes in the wake of BJP national president Amit Shah’s announcement that the party will win the crucial 2021 Bengal assembly polls with a two-thirds majority.

Talking of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s or, strict immigration laws in the Gulf countries, at rallies in support of the amended citizenship law, may appear outlandish. Yet, in West Bengal, such issues are being raised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as part of a campaign tuned specifically for indigenous Muslims. Special pamphlets are being printed for the minority community, while top leaders are addressing at least three workshops every week to train party workers.

In certain areas, such as Cooch Behar district in north Bengal, the BJP’s minority morcha (front) leaders are saying that Muslims in the region were originally Hindus till their forefathers were forcibly converted by the generals of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

“The converted Bengali Muslims are locally referred to as Narsho Sheikh. There are around 2.2 million Narsho Sheikhs in Bengal. I am one of them,” said Ali Hossain, president of the BJP’s Bengal minority morcha on Friday, hours before BJP state president Dilip Ghosh addressed workers at a workshop on Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Many of the foot soldiers came from distant districts.

The strategy for Bengal comes in the wake of BJP national president Amit Shah’s announcement that the party will win the crucial 2021 Bengal assembly polls with a two-thirds majority. Party leaders in Bengal are aware that achieving it will not be easy without Muslim votes even though they won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats last year.

“The minority morcha is telling local Muslims that their counterparts, who sneaked in from Bangladesh over the past decades, are eating into their share of employment and livelihood. No Muslim country would allow that for the sake of religion or brotherly feeling. We are thus referring to wars between Islamic nations to illustrate that the nation is bigger than religion,” said Hossain.

Muslims are in majority in Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur districts and comprise a sizeable chunk of voters in Nadia and the North and South 24 Parganas. BJP has 0.4 million Muslim workers in Bengal.

“A whisper campaign started months ago,” said Hossain.

He added that a rally will be held in Kolkata later this month where the central leadership of the party will be invited to participate.

According to the 2011 census, Muslims comprise 49.92 per cent and Hindus compromise 49.31 per cent of the population in North Dinajpur which has nine assembly segments.

In Murshidabad, which has 66.27 per cent Muslims, there are 22 assembly segments. In Malda, which has 12 assembly seats, Muslims comprise 51.21 per cent. At present, most of the 43 assembly seats in these three districts are in control of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

Significantly, no other state in India witnessed so much destruction to public and railway property as was seen in Bengal’s Malda and Murshidabad during protests against CAA. Trains and buses were set on fire.

Bengal BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu said Mamata was scaring Muslims because the infiltrators are a big vote bank for her.

“Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is scaring all Muslims because she needs the captive vote bank of the illegal infiltrators whose number is more than 10 million in Bengal,” said Basu.

Kolkata-based political science professor Udayan Bandopadhyay, however, says the BJP’s strategy may not work.

“I do not think BJP will gain from this strategy in Bengal. The Muslims are united against it. The party will gain if Left supporters back it the way they did during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to counter the TMC,” Bandopadhyay said.

Source: Hindustan Times