Kolkata: In yet another political twist in West Bengal, Abbas Siddiqui — one of the strong Muslim clerics in West Bengal and founder of the Indian Secular Front (ISF) — is likely to field a candidate against Trinamool Congress chief and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from Nandigram in East Midnapore in the upcoming 2021 Assembly polls.
Nandigram is a crucial seat as Banerjee came to power in 2011 riding the wave of anti-land acquisition movements in Nandigram and Singur. That is why the BJP and the Congress-Left Front-ISF alliance is trying to corner the chief minister in this seat with a strong anti-incumbency message.
While BJP is yet to finalise its candidate sources said the Congress-Left Front-ISF have decided to field a strong ISF candidate. Speaking to the News18.com, Abbas Siddiqui’s brother and chairman of ISF Naushad Siddiqui said, “Yes, talks are going on between us and the Left-Congress alliance to field ISF candidate against Mamata Banerjee from prestigious Nandigram seat.”
When asked when they are going to organise a ‘mega public rally’ in Nandigram, he said, “In coming 10-15 days, we will hold the mega rally and before that all the formalities will be done as far fielding our candidate is concern. Talks are still going on and we will announce it officially soon.”
Siddiqui is an influential cleric of Furfura Sharif Darbar Hooghly district’s Jangipara. His decision to contest the 2021 state elections could be a worry for Banerjee as it will inevitably divide the Muslim vote share.
On January 18, Banerjee played a masterstroke, declaring she will contest from Nandigram (as well as Bhowanipur seats) in the upcoming assembly poll in 2021.
Then, addressing a huge public rally at Tekhali in Nandigram, she said, “Nandigram is close to my heart. I can forget my name but I cannot forget Nandigram. Considering the emotional attachment I have with the people of Nandigram, today I am announcing that I wish to contest the upcoming poll from Nandigram.”
With more than a 31 percent vote share, the Muslim vote is undeniably a deciding factor for any political party in West Bengal.
It was a deciding factor during the Left rule till Banerjee came to power in 2011. She knows very well that any significant division in the Muslim vote share – a deciding factor in nearly 90 Assembly segments out of 294 Assembly seats in the state – could jeopardise her mission 2021 Assembly polls.
In 2019 Lok Sabha, Bengal witnessed a polarised voting pattern. The BJP had openly played the Hindu card, while the TMC banked on the Muslims. Such was the polarisation that even the Matuas (strong supporters of TMC) voted for BJP for raising the citizenship issue.
While the polarisation came as a concern for TMC (as Hindu votes are shying away towards BJP), Abbas Siddqui’s 2021 Assembly poll debut in Bengal, could be a boon for BJP due to inevitable division in Muslim vote share.
In 2019, TMC got 43 per cent votes (despite losing 12 seats) which is 5 per cent more (because of Muslim support) as compare to 2014 Lok Sabha. In 2014, TMC got 34 seats, while in 2019 it managed to secure only 22 seats.
On the other hand, in 2016 Assembly BJP’s vote share was 12 percent and in 2019 Lok Sabha it went up to 39 percent. There was an increase of 27 percent vote share mainly because of Hindus coalescing towards the BJP.
In West Bengal, nearly 22 percent Muslims lives in Kolkata city while majority of them (nearly 67 per cent) lives in Murshidabad district.
West Bengal accounts for the second highest Muslim population in India which is nearly 2.47 crore, who form nearly 27.5 per cent of the state’s population.
In the 2016 Assembly polls, TMC was ahead in nearly 90 minority-dominated Assembly segments. In densely Muslim populated Muslim areas comprise of more than 40 percent of the electorate – TMC was ahead in nearly 60 out of 65 Assembly constituencies.
This shows how a minor swing in the Muslim vote share towards Abbas Siddqui could be a big problem for Banerjee in Nandigram.