In Bengal, BJP rallying Hindu refugees, SC/STs against Bangla Muslim settlers

  • Ravik Bhattacharya & Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Aug 19, 2014 00:02 IST

In the BJP’s book, there are two categories of Bangladeshis who have settled in West Bengal — Hindu refugees fleeing religious persecution and Muslim infiltrators.

Its West Bengal unit, in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pre-poll rhetoric, is preparing to embrace the former and push the latter back to where they came from. Muslims, accounting for 29% of Bengal’s population, dominate around 12 Parliament seats in the bordering districts, such as Murshidabad and Malda. They invariably back the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

The BJP’s promise to rehabilitate Hindu refugees — especially the numerically strong Matua community, which is one TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s assured vote-banks – in the border districts now tops the agenda for Mission 2016, when Bengal goes to assembly elections.

“It is time to identify all Muslim infiltrators and sending them back. But for now, we will wait for the government at the Centre to settle down,” Samik Bhattacharya, general secretary of the state BJP, said.

Bhattacharya, who contested the Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency in the last general elections — where infiltration is a burning issue – and lost has emerged as one of the most vocal state leaders. Prior to the LS polls, Modi attacked the chief minister for “protecting Bangladeshis”. Banerjee retaliated, daring Modi and the BJP to “drive a single person out of Bengal”.

The BJP has since targeted Banerjee’s policy of ‘Muslim appeasement’. Siddharth Nath Singh, the party’s observer for Bengal, went to the extent of saying that Mamata should be called Mumtaz. “She has ignored the Bangladeshi minorities (Hindus) who came to India as refugees, while infiltrators (Muslims) roam freely in Bengal. She is interested in vote-bank politics and, therefore, covers her head and prays to pose in posters and hoardings,” Singh said.

The LS poll results made the polarisation in Bengal apparent. Across the state’s 42 Parliament seats, its vote share jumped from 6% (2009) to 17%. In Raigunj in North Dinajpur district, a Muslim-heavy constituency bordering Bangladesh, the BJP candidate bagged more than 100,000 votes to prove poll pundits wrong.

Even in Kolkata, the party expects to do better in the municipal polls next year and the 2016 assembly elections. It has begun lining up brainstorming tours by top leaders, beginning with finance minister Arun Jaitley on August 23-24.

Party chief Amit Shah is expected to arrive in September to fine-tune BJP’s aggressive campaign against Banerjee’s pro-Muslim politics. The focus, sources said, would be on comparing Banerjee to Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who rehabilitated more than 5,000 Bangladeshi Hindu refugees in his state. The BJP has already been organising scheduled caste and schedule tribe communities against Muslim infiltrators — blamed for law and order disturbances, trafficking, arms smuggling and terrorism 1 in the border districts.

Recently, the BJP sent a central team to Sandeshkhali in South 24 Parganas district where SC-ST communities clashed with largely Muslim supporters of Trinamool. The team blamed the clash on the Trinamool’s nexus with infiltrators, saying it was a threat to national security.

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