Mamata’s TMC Banks on Four Muslim-Dominated Districts to Trump BJP in Crucial Last Stretch

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West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is now focusing on Muslim-dominated Malda, Murshidabad, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur, going to the extent of telling people in these four districts that she will be able to form the next government in the state only if she wins seats there.

This is significant after the Sitalkuchi incident in North Bengal’s Cooch Behar, where four people died in firing by central forces during the fourth phase of polling on April 10. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has cited the incident to portray itself as the sole savior of Bengal’s minority community.

In the 2016 elections, even when the TMC bagged 211 of the state’s 294 seats, it could win just 11 of the 49 constituencies in Malda, Murshidabad, North and South Dinajpur, while the Congress won 26 and the Left 10.

Speaking in Murshidabad’s Bhagabangola on Tuesday, Banerjee said Malda and Murshidabad will play a very important role in the ongoing elections.

“I urge you to be united…don’t allow your vote to be split this time. If we get a good number of seats in these two districts and some others (such as Dinajpur), we will be able to form the government. You must understand that I am appealing to you for a reason…do you want our state to go to the BJP and become another Gujarat?” the CM asked.

She said other parties — a veiled reference to the Congress-Left-Indian Secular Front (ISF) alliance — seeking votes from people were working in tandem with the BJP.

Banerjee campaigned in North Dinajpur on Monday. She was in Murshidabad on Tuesday and will campaign in Malda and South Dinajpur on Wednesday.

The TMC feels that the third front of the Congress-Left-ISF has lost steam in North Bengal after the Sitalkuchi incident. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has, meanwhile, cancelled his campaigns in the state in view of the Covid-19 situation. Banerjee’s party is trying to seize the opportunity to make a solid foray into this region.

The TMC’s eagerness to cash in on what could be an advantage is evident in its repeated demands, including on Tuesday, to the Election Commission (EC). It has requested the watchdog to club the remaining three phases of polling together — which would bring the voting day forward for seats casting their ballots in the last two rounds. However, the party has cited Covid-19 as the reason.

BJP’s Hopes

Interestingly, the BJP got leads in 10 of the 49 assembly segments in the region in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. That result has buoyed the party in the 2021 state polls.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold public rallies in both Malda and Murshidabad on April 23 to appeal to voters to give the BJP a chance. The party has also fielded some Muslim candidates there. In many seats in this region, the share of Muslim population is over 50%; in some seats, it is as high as 80%-90%.

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