OF late two very crucial conclusions of the last state assembly election (2011) have come to light. One: Muslims of West Bengal have never wholeheartedly supported Mamata’s party— Trinamool Congress (TMC) rather they have gone against TMC in areas where they are in commanding position so far as voting is concerned. This has been established in the latest report of the election after detail scanning of the voting pattern has come out. Obviously, this has mercilessly negated the popular perception that it was Muslim votes which have rewarded the TMC with historical victory over the tyrannical administration of the Left Front government.
Two: there was a general swing of at least 5 per cent voters in favour of TMC which consists of mainly non-Muslim voters. Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Adivasis, Rajbansis, and OBCs had given all out support to the TMC. And curiously enough, these voters are not essentially Muslim voters. The booth wise analysis of the polling of votes in recent elections had made it abundantly clear that Muslim voters were basically anti-TMC. Even after knowing it fully well that Muslim did not give her full support, Mamata Banerjee had started an intensive campaign of wooing Muslim votes which had become an eyesore for all other than Muslims.
In the following paragraphs I am going to explain the scenario which has emerged because of her ‘wooing-Muslim-campaign’ and a short background will also be given.
Those who know Kolkata during the days of its old name Calcutta, they are conversant with the fact that the nerve centre of this city was Esplanade area where legendary Metro Cinema, Grand Hotel, Firpo Hotel, Museum etc. were situated. And in front of it were green pastures of Fort William. In olden days this area was an attraction for the Calcuttans. But since sixties the character of this ‘nerve centre’ had started changing its character as the neat and clean footpaths from Dharmatala Street junction to Sudder Street junction had been gradually encroached by the hawkers, call girls, beggars and so on. Over the years situation had been worsened. The latest position is that it has transformed into an open air bazaar and people have no space to walk. For all practical purposes, this area has become vulnerable and a security risk zone.
In this regard, one has to ponder over the fact that the whole Esplanade area has become a safe haven for encroachers and infiltrators. Who are they? This area has been virtually under the control of Muslim of all description. For the last thirty five years, the ruling party for that matter CPM and Forward Bloc have been propping them up with all kinds of help including police and administrative help to get rid of any unpleasant action against them.
Same things are happening under the rule of TMC. Their appeasement of Muslim policy has crossed all marks of sobriety and rationality. In a recent report published by Times of India, Kolkata (October 19, Page 3) said: “In early September, the municipal commissioner wrote to Kolkata Police deputy commissioners, urging them to provide adequate force to conduct raids to curb rampant encroachment of pavements by hawkers. New Market, Hatibagan and Gariahat were top priorities. The siege of the arcade at the Oberoi Grand, a heritage building, figured prominently.
“Officers in charge of all major police stations were called for a meeting on the issue. The civic authorities serious on conducting raids and police bosses appeared eager to lend all the help required to control a situation that is fast spiraling out of hand. But then a decision was taken to postpone the drive in view of the ensuing festivities (i.e. Durga Puja festival)” a police officer said.
“Sources said politicians from the ruling party stepped in and opposed the drive before the festive season on humanitarian grounds, squandering the opportunity to clear the choked pavements. There is a nexus at work. Politicians view hawkers as a vote bank and are keen to protect their interests. Trade union leaders affiliated with political parties earn protection money to ensure their security. A portion of the payoff goes to the police so that they can conduct business unhindered. Until there is political will, the city will be overrun by hawkers”.
This is one side of the story. TMC is really very serious for winning over the vote bank of Muslims as on the other side the hard realities are the Muslims have not taken the brief of the TMC to bail them out in all the forthcoming elections. There is no such indication in the air that Muslims will take even a lenient view about TMC. Although it is a fact that Mamata Banerjee has already roped in quite a number of (so called) influential Muslim leaders, she could not sit idle as ‘facts are stranger than fiction’. After a close scrutiny of election results of Panchayat, it has been come to light that from Cooch Behar (in North Bengal) to Gaighata (in South Bengal) Muslims are controlling 120 MLA segments. (Total number of assembly seats in West Bengal is 294). It definitely has its impact upon the results of the forthcoming Parliamentary elections.
Apart from this, there are loopholes as well. In the last Panchayat election the Muslim infested Tehatta Panchayat (under Nadia district) has refused TMC in all the seats. Muslim voters of Murshidabad district have, in the same way, rewarded the TMC with no vote. They were not able to win even a single seat in this district. In another North Bengal district Maldah, TMC could grab only a few seats that too with the help of tribal votes. In North 24 Parganas district, Basirhat Panchayat has more than 50 per cent Muslim votes. Here also, almost Muslim votes have gone to CPM. TMC had only trailed behind. In the Howrah Lok Sabha bye election, it was found that the Muslim majority Sankrail MLA segment had not given a single vote to TMC.
West Bengal is now having a population of nearly ten crores. Among them more than 29 per cent are Muslims But their concentrations in ‘ghettos’ and pockets are significant as Muslims control the local politics through them. Of late,TMC had become very much conscious about this and gearing up their ranks to this aspect of Muslim motives. Surprisingly enough, that the TMC has boosted up their activities of appeasement towards Muslims.