In a veiled reference to AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee Monday warned TMC workers against falling for the claims of “some extremists among minorities” from Hyderabad. Owaisi said Mamata has failed to stop the BJP from entering Bengal, and that the conditions of Muslims in Bengal were poor. He declared he will contest elections in the state.
ThePrint asks: Caught between Amit Shah and Owaisi, is Mamata Banerjee’s politics in Bengal floundering?
After BJP’s impressive show in Lok Sabha election, Mamata Banerjee desperately trying to change tack
State Executive Member, BJP
Mamata Banerjee has always followed the path of minority appeasement ever since she became the chief minister of West Bengal.
The TMC chief has been feeling the pressure after the 2019 Lok Sabha election results – the BJP won 18 of the total 42 Lok Sabha seats. People of West Bengal have rejected her governance.
While Mamata Banerjee speaks against minority extremism, her party members have been accused of organised violence in the border areas of Bengal. One of her ministers proudly labelled an area in Kolkata as “mini Pakistan”.
She is trying hard to mislead people by telling them that they will lose their citizenship once the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed in Parliament. The BJP has been following the principle of sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas. Mamata Banerjee’s appeasement politics will not be able to save her party.
The phenomenal rise of the BJP in West Bengal has rattled Mamata Banerjee. I am not sure which party she referred to in her speech Monday, but Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM is known for its anti-BJP stand.
Now, if Mamata Banerjee perceives the AIMIM as a threat, it shows that even she knows she is fast losing the fight.
Owaisi not a threat to Mamata in West Bengal because people there don’t know about him
MP, Trinamool Congress
In West Bengal, votes are not given based on minority-majority politics. Real issues take precedence.
We should not waste our time discussing the issue of religious polarisation, rather we should talk more about political issues and evaluate the achievements of our governments.
CM Mamata Banerjee did not mention anyone by name when she made her minority extremism remark. However, it is well-known that AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi is close to the BJP and acts in a way that divides the opposition vote. Further, he is a fringe player in Indian politics. Owaisi’s party has barely managed to secure Bihar’s Kishanganj bypoll seat and two seats in Maharashtra and might get a few seats in Telangana.
I don’t think that Mamata Banerjee risks losing her vote-bank just because of her recent comments.
Moreover, Owaisi does not stand as a threat to Mamata Banerjee and her politics in Bengal because people there don’t know enough about him.
Mamata has used Muslims for political gains, but now AIMIM emerging as an alternative
The fact that Mamata Banerjee has spoken about minority extremism at a time when she is on the brink of losing her vote-bank in West Bengal is telling. She is worried because Muslims in Bengal are now drifting away from her, while the AIMIM is forming a strong base in the state.
The Muslim community in Bengal wants the AIMIM to make inroads in the state. This would have made Mamata feel threatened. The Muslim community in Bengal is in a dire state and the AIMIM intends to question her about poor social economic indicators for Muslims.
She knows she has used Muslims for her political gains, but now she is aware that an alternative is emerging for the community. The AIMIM is entering Bengal not just for votes but to ask questions of the government regarding its tall claims. A community that stood by Mamata in elections is now being ignored.
Mamata’s balancing act will not help her and she will suffer major losses. She needs to explain what kind of extremism she is talking about. Just because Asaduddin Owaisi wears a skull cap and sports a beard and a sherwani doesn’t mean he is an extremist. People of Hyderabad have elected him as an MP for 15 years now.
Bangla pamphlets are being issued about what Owaisi is doing for Muslims. Mamata fears losing her vote-bank
Journalist and Political Analyst
Mamata Banerjee’s politics in West Bengal has come a full circle. She started her journey as the chief minister riding on two major planks: anti-leftism and Muslim-appeasement politics. Ignoring the criticisms from the Hindu Right and the moderate Hindu Bengali bhadraloks, Mamata Banerjee continued to pamper the ulemas by introducing monthly allowance for the imams and muezzins in the state.
Mamata’s gestures towards Muslims helped her reap electoral dividends in successive elections.
While the BJP, after aggressively labelling Mamata an appeaser of minorities, started mobilising Hindus, she remained undaunted. But did the Muslim society get a fair deal under her dispensation? Amartya Sen’s 2016 report – ‘Living Reality of Muslims in West Bengal’ – exposed that not much has been done to improve the socio-economic situation of Muslims since the publication of the Sachar Committee Report (2006).
Now, predictably, under pressure from the BJP, Mamata is trying to balance her act. She has started granting funds to community-based Durga Pujas and chanting shlokas to prove her claim of being a bona fide Hindu, and TMC workers are observing Hanuman Jayanti.
According to Sabir Ahmed, a researcher at Pratichi, a few Muslims, including college students and teachers, have started campaigning against how politicians have not brought enough development to their community. They are issuing pamphlets in Bangla highlighting what Owaisi is doing in Hyderabad. Mamata’s fear that they might cut into her Muslim vote bank has forced her to come out in open against the ‘Hyderabad-based’ group.
While pleasing imams, Mamata didn’t realise Hindu nationalism would become big factor in Bengal politics
Political Editor, India TV
When Mamata Banerjee was the railway minister in the NDA during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, she never thought Muslim vote-bank politics could be a major determining factor for the TMC. At that time, anti-CPIism was a stronger factor in politics.
But when Mamata started her new innings without the BJP, she gradually realised that Muslims accounted for nearly 30 per cent of the total voters in West Bengal. She tried to please the imams through various schemes, and this did help her reap political dividends.
But she never imagined that Hindu nationalism would become such a big deciding factor in West Bengal politics. Chanting Jai Sri Ram has become so common in Bengal now.
For both Amit Shah and Mamata Banerjee, NRC was a potential tool for polarisation, but now with several Hindus being left out of the list, that strategy has taken a backseat.
On the question of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi posing a threat to Mamata in Bengal, it’s well-known that he shares strained relations with most imams. But it is too early to predict if Mamata’s balancing act can help her reap any political dividends in the 2021 Bengal assembly election.
By Kairvy Grewal, journalist at ThePrint