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Bengal BJP claims Muslim support, TMC denies

The BJP has seen a rise in the number of Muslim members in West Bengal since the general election with the total number crossing 2.5 lakh as it seeks to make an inroad in the Trinamool Congress-ruled state.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2014 11:29 IST
Ravik Bhattacharya

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has seen a rise in the number of Muslim members in West Bengal since the general election with the total number crossing 2.5 lakh as it seeks to make an inroad in the Trinamool Congress-ruled state, party leaders told HT on Thursday.

Senior party members attributed the rise in the membership to their aggressive push for development and intensive membership drive after the party grew into the main opposition with many Muslim supporters of the CPI(M) and the Trinamool turning to the party after the general election.

"Our membership drive was rolled out on November 5 and Muslims joined our party in a major way after the Lok Sabha polls," said state BJP president Rahul Sinha on Thursday.

"By rough estimates we have over 2.5 lakh members from the Muslim community now. It may work out to over 12 lakh supporters. The number is growing by the day," Sinha added.

Muslims constitute 27% of the state's population, according to the 2001 census, and played a key role in the Trinamool Congress' good performances in the 2011 assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP says that number has risen to more than 30% now.

The community is supposed to hold the key to about 60 assembly constituencies, mostly in the districts of Malda, Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas and south 24 Parganas.

BJP sources said unlike in the rest of the country where it is considered a Hindu party, the party presented a neutral face in Bengal. Even while raising the illegal migration issue, party leaders took care not to offend Indian Muslims.

The party also took care not to lash out at madrasas after the Burdwan incident but only pointed out that it was a small section of the community which was involved in such activities, they added.

"In Birbhum, Panrui and Ilambazar areas our supporters were killed by the ruling party supporters who unleashed mayhem. The victims are all Muslims. This is proof enough that now Bengal's Muslims are reposing their faith on Narendra Modi's development agenda and joining us. It also exposes the real face of Trinamool Congress," said BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh.

"On the one hand they are putting up posters of the chief minister with her head covered and offering namaz. On the other, her workers are killing Muslims," added Singh.

The party's membership drive that was rolled out through SMS and phone calls seem to have triggered considerable response. BJP leaders also claim about 2 lakh new members enrolled from Kolkata alone within days after Amit Shah's rally in the state capital on November 30.

"After the Lok sabha polls we conducted small group meetings in districts. We made them understand that development is our only agenda, and we can provide them security from the ruling party," said Shakil Ansari, state president of party's minority wing.

Apart from Urdu speaking Muslims in Kolkata, Bengali speaking Muslims too are slowly making their way towards BJP. The trend is evident in border districts like Malda Murshidabad, North and South 24 Parganas, North and South Dinajpur as well as districts like Birbhum, Nadia and Burdwan.

"As many as 20,000 Muslims have joined us after the Lok Sabha polls. Ordinary poor Muslims have not benefited in the Mamata Banerjee regime," Ashraful Bulbul, a BJP leader from North Dinajpur told HT.

Trinamool leaders, however, scoffed at the suggestion that Muslims were turning to the BJP.

"They are living in a fool's paradise. Muslim sentiments are being hurt by the statements of BJP leaders such as the recent one by Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti. Churches are also being attacked in Delhi," Trinamool MP Sultan Ahmed said.