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Owaisi’s entry, BJP's rise show Mamata’s Muslim appeasement politics has failed

The going may just get tougher for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party Trinamool Congress (TMC) just ahead of the state elections.

Banerjee, known for her aggressive politics of Muslim appeasement, may have never expected that the spotlight would be on her for doing little for the community. On the one hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already made substantial inroads in Banerjee’s electoral citadel; and on the other, the entry of Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) in the electoral fray in the state has only made things worse for TMC.

In what proved to be an utter embarrassment for Banerjee, Owaisi, who made his intentions clear of fighting the state election next year, said that the condition of the Muslims living in the state was “worse than many places in the country.” Though Banerjee hit back at Owaisi, saying that the Hyderabad-based leader—an outsider in West Bengal—was promoting “extremism” in the state, insiders said infighting is the order of the day within the TMC.

Muslims, who comprise 27.01 per cent of the total population in the state, have an important role in the electoral process of the states.

“After the Left Front government was washed out, the Muslim votes have been going to TMC. Though the Chief Minister has been open with her appeasement politics, cracks are emerging and interestingly more and more Muslims now feel that they have been only used for vote bank politics,” a retired professor who lives in Kolkata told Indianarrative.com on condition of anonymity.

<strong>Secularism or political game?</strong>

Many political pundits tracking West Bengal politics have maintained that TMC, in the name of “secularism,” has encouraged illegal immigration from Bangladesh while following an out-and-out Muslim appeasement policy much like the Left Front.

A report titled ‘Living Reality of Muslims in West Bengal,’ authored by economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s Pratichi Institute and Association (SNAP), revealed that the condition of the Muslims in the state was worse than those living in other states.

According to the report, published in 2016, 38.3 per cent of the Muslim households in rural areas had a monthly income of Rs 2,500 or less.

Besides, West Bengal featured among the top states with the maximum migrant laborers. “There are limited means of livelihood for Muslims in the state and this is one reason why many of them migrate outside in search of jobs. Their condition is pitiable in the rural areas and this has led to a growing sense of discontentment,” a senior executive with a multinational bank and a resident of Kolkata said.

“With the growing disenchantment with the Mamata Banerjee government, the Muslims are looking for an alternative,” the Dawn reported.

After the AIMIM won five seats in the recently-concluded Bihar elections, several “secular” parties including the Congress accused it of behaving like the BJP’s B-team. They blamed the Owaisi-led party for dividing secular votes.

Hindustan Times quoted TMC leader Saugata Roy as saying, “Owaisi is a good Parliamentarian who raises Islamic issues but he will not be able to do anything in Bengal.”

<strong>Growing violence in the state</strong>

Violence and riots are not uncommon in West Bengal. Untoward incidents and political killings are, in fact, regular occurrences, especially in the rural hinterland. Earlier this month, five people were killed in the Malda district due to an explosion at a plastic factory, and a BJP worker was beaten to death in Coochbehar. However, as the state elections approach, locals said that such occurrences of violent incidents would only increase.

“We are expecting such incidents to occur more regularly now as the state elections approach. The situation is grim and the national media has not taken note of these incidents,” the professor added..