West Bengal: In West Bengal, political parties are preparing their political plan for fighting the upcoming Assembly election 2021. Recently, the ruling party Trinamool Congress (TMC) released the district committee list. However, the list has neglected the Muslim leadership, which is not unusual as the previous Left Front also had left out Muslim leadership from key posts.
After 34 years of Left Front ruling in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress came to power in 2011. In West Bengal state assembly, out of 294 seats, Muslim MLA' were elected to only 59.
However, according to the 2011 census, the Muslim population in West Bengal is 27.01 per cent. Comparing the Muslim percentage, the Muslim representatives in state assembly should be at least 79. However, the Muslim representation in West Bengal assembly remained at 59 seats in the 2016 assembly election, which was the same as last time and which constitutes 20 per cent of the total house strength of 294.
These 59 Muslim MLAs were elected from Trinamool Congress, Congress and Left parties in West Bengal assembly election 2016. The same number of 59 MLAs were elected in 2011 as well. Amongst these, 32 belonged to ruling party TMC, 18 were from Congress, while 8 were from Left and 1 was from AIFB.
Among the 59 Muslim MLAs, the Trinamool Congress and Congress increased their representatives than the previous 2011 assembly election. However, the Left Fronts Muslim share was reduced to half. 32 MLAs won on Trinamool Congress tickets, which was an increase of five from the previous elections. The Congress party managed to increase the number of its Muslim faces to 18 from 13, reaping the benefit of its alliance with the Left Front. But the Left Front's strength has gone down to nine from 18. The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) had 13 Muslim lawmakers in 2011. Now it has only eight.
As the next Assembly elections in West Bengal are knocking at the door, the ruling TMC is facing a tough fight against the saffron party BJP in the state. During the last general elections and Assembly elections, BJP was the main rival of TMC. The BJP is trying its best to capture the Hindu vote using religious polarization, while the TMC is trying to woo voters through the secular image building. However, TMC has secured Muslim vote bank since 2011, when the ruling Left Front was ousted from the Bengal.
In the last 34 years under the Left ruling regimes, the Left parties main vote bank was Muslim, which has now switched over to TMC. Despite this, there has been no change in leadership, either among the Left front or TMC.
During the left front regime, most of the district party presidents were non-Muslims. This was the case even in the largest Muslim populated district Murshidabad. The Left Front would justify this by saying that their vision is clear, and they do not want to do communal politics. However, this was not seen only in Murshidabad, in all districts of West Bengal, there was comparatively low Muslim leadership.
In view of the upcoming Assembly elections in 2021, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has re-organised the district leadership. She announced a new list to fight against the BJP as well as other rival parties like Congress, CPI (M).
The ruling TMC's organisation body reveals the same mentality, just like the previous Left front.
On 23 July, TMC released their new district committee list. According to the list, TMC declared 24 district committees and except Kolkata North released all the 23 district presidents' names and except Darjeeling released all the district Chairman names. In the newly formed district committee list of TMC, which has a total of 107 members, only 8 are Muslims.
While the TMC always claims that they are friends of Muslims and for their development, the low Muslim representatives in the district committee list reveal a different picture.
Among the 23 district presidents and chairmen, only two district presidents and two district chairmen are Muslim. In Murshidabad, which has more than 60 per cent Muslim population, the President is a Muslim named Abu Taher Khan but the Chairman is a non-Muslim named Subrata Saha. Only in Malda district, both president and chairman are Muslim. In Purba Bardhaman Dr Mumtaz Sanghamitra bagged the chairmanship of TMC. In no other districts are Muslims either on the Chairman or President list. From the 24 districts, only 4 Muslims have got the coordinator post. They are Mosarraf Hossain (Uttar Dinajpur), Khalilur Rahman, Soumik Hossain (Murshidabad) and Nasiruddin Ahmed (Nadia).
The TMC list shows that the accusation against the party of practising soft Hindutva is not entirely wrong. While the Muslim population in Bengal is 27 per cent, the Muslim representation at TMC district level is only 7.5 per cent overall. If we count district president and chairman posts, then we have got only 2 presidents and 2 chairmen out of 46 posts. This goes on to show that the Muslim leadership has been neglected by the ruling party TMC, as well as by Left Front.
[ The author is basicaly from Calcutta. He is currently working as News Editor, Kalom ( Bengali Daily Newspaper) and Editor of Aponzone (Bengali Magazine). This was first published in TwoCircles.net ]