As Mamata Banerjee led the Trinamool Congress to an overwhelming majority in West Bengal, minority votes again came into play when it mattered the most for her party.
This happened despite the Congress-Left alliance trying to highlight her ‘bonhomie’ with the BJP during the campaign tried.
“Minorities voted for development. Muslims voted for Mamata Banerjee. She has done so much for the minorities, from stipends to students and honorarium to Imams. The Opposition tried to spread canards but voters did not listen to them,” said Idris Ali, Trinamool Lok Sabha MP and minority cell leader.
In 102 of the 294 assembly seats, Muslims determined the winners and their votes mostly went to Trinamool.
In South 24 Parganas, Trinamool won 29 seats while the Opposition won two. In North 24 Parganas, Trinamool won 27 as compared to six won by the Opposition. In North Dinajpur, the ruling party got five seats while the Opposition won four.
Even in the Congress bastion of Murshidabad, where minority vote was the deciding factor, Trinamool got four seats while the Opposition got 22.
Rezzak Mollah, former CPI(M) stalwart who later joined Trinamool; won from Bhangar. Siddiqullah Chowdhury, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e Hind, won from Mongolkot assembly seat.
“I had predicted that Mamata will win in more than 200 seats. I campaigned for her in different parts of the state. She has done so much for the education and employment of Muslims in Bengal. She is also the only force to stop RSS in the state,” said Nur-ur-Rehman Barkati, Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan mosque.
“Look at the growth of madrasas and how she developed them. She provided employment to youth. She gave stipends to Muslims students,” added Barkati.
Shafique Qasmi, Imam, Nakhoda Masjid, said, “People who have voted for Trinamool appreciate the secular thoughts of the party supremo. All parties should follow suit. Again, the winning party now has a greater responsibility towards the minorities.”
In 2014, Banerjee managed to score handsomely in the Muslim-dominated districts of south Bengal. In Birbhum district, which has 37% Muslim population, the Trinamool led in nine out of 11 Assembly segments in the Lok Sabha elections. In South 24 Paraganas, with 35.5% Muslim votes, the TMC led in 29 out of 31. The party was ahead of others in 72 of 81 segments in both north and south Bengal’s five districts with a Muslim population of over 25%.
Bengal accounts for the second highest population of Muslims in India, which is 2.47 crore, and 27% of the total population, which is the third largest in the country.
Muslims form the majority in the three districts of Malda, Murshidabad and South Dinajpur. The Muslim population is more than 25% in districts like South Dinajpur, South 24 Parganas, Nadia and Birbhum.