“We should ask for their blessings and walk slowly. They are waiting for us” is what Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee was heard telling her party colleagues on Thursday, while they traversed minority-dominated areas of Kolkata.
She and other Trinamool leaders covered a 7 km stretch in about three hours on a hot day (maximum temperature 34 degree Celsius) to reinforce their ties with the Muslim community, which in a large measure has shifted allegiance to her because of Banerjee’s anti-land acquisition stance.
At the proposed petrochemicals complex site in Nandigram in East Midnapore district, it is mainly the Muslims who stood to lose land. A traditional vote bank of the Left, the community, though about 28% of the population, accounts for 30% of the vote share.
Since 2008 it has been a factor in her victories in various elections.
People from all walks of life waited for hours to have a glimpse of Banerjee at the roadside, sometimes waving, sometimes stretching their utmost to give her a rose because of a human chain round her. They also waved flags and raised anti-CPI(M) slogans.
“I knew she was going to pass through our neighbourhood. So my friends and I brought red roses for her. I am waiting for more than an hour,” said teenager Meherunissa, who stood near the Alimuddin street crossing, where the CPI(M) headquarters are located.
In the Lok Sabha elections of 2009, the Trinamool won all the nine seats in the two districts of North and South 24 Parganas, where there is a sizable number of Muslims.
“Since 2008 the Muslims are with Banerjee. The Sachar Commission (set up by the Centre to find out the conditions of the Muslims in the country) says only 2% of government jobs in West Bengal have gone to Muslims. Events like Nandigram and the death of Rizwanur Rehman (a graphic artist) have touched the Muslim heart,” said Sultan Ahmed, a prominent minority leader of the party and union minister of state for tourism.