Kolkata: The dates for the 2019 General Election have been announced. And not many are happy with the dates allocated for West Bengal elections. Trinamool Congress minister and mayor of Kolkata Firhad Hakim was the first to highlight the issue.
During a media interaction, he brought up the issue of Ramadan clashing with the election timings. He even alleged that Modi-led government “didn’t want the minorities to cast their votes in huge numbers” during the seven-phase election in Bengal.
With Bengal having over 31 per cent voters hailing from the Muslim community, the election date seems to have become a major political issue, especially for districts like Malda and Murshidabad, where Muslims constitute about 50 per cent of the population.
Reacting on the same, Md Rafay M Siddique, convenor, Loktantrik Janata Dal, West Bengal said, “This move is a deliberate one, with the sole agenda of benefiting BJP in Bengal as it will definitely affect the Muslim turnout.” However, he went on to add, “Given the present political scenario, it is now the duty of the Muslim leadership to ensure that every single Muslim voter casts his vote. If required special arrangements for the wheelchairs etc needs to be made for those coming out to vote despite fasting in the scorching summer heat.”
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi was also quick in reacting to Hakim’s comment. Owaisi even criticised the TMC minister for raising an unnecessary controversy and even requested politicians from politicizing Ramadan.
Reacting on the same, Ghazala Yasmin, assistant professor, department of journalism and mass communication, Aliah University said, “It shouldn’t, because the religious obligations of Ramadan don’t stop us from performing our worldly duty, they never have. And the present situation warrants complete participation of all sections of society including Muslims to come out and vote in unprecedented numbers to save the spirit of democracy and salvage the social and economic fabric of the country.”
On being asked if the move, as alleged by politicians was a deliberate move to restrict Muslims from voting she said, “I can’t comment whether it’s a deliberate move or not, but it surely puts the onus on us to detoxify the politics of the country by casting our votes in an intelligent manner.”
Speaking along the same line was Khidderpore’s Maulana Ashraf Qasmi who said, “We can’t accuse the Election Commission like this, we have faith in it and our system. We can only request them to consider doing something with regards to making voting easier for those fasting, as it would be really very hot in the month of May. We have no issue with Ramadan and election coinciding. But it’s the heat, which may create some health issue of old and the weak while waiting in queue. If some special care is taken to provide shamiana or seats for us to sit, then it would be fine.” He then added, “However, I would request every single individual to not use heat and Ramadan as an excuse to not cast their vote. We must come out in great numbers to give a clear electoral mandate to India.”