Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) is banking on the “Bangladeshi voters” in Jharkhand’s Santhal Pargana region for this month’s election when the ruling BJP at the centre and the RSS are pressing for deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, sources said.
There are 18 assembly seats in the Santhal Parganas – situated to the north east of state capital Ranchi – and areas like Sahebganj, Pakur, Shikaripara and Littipara have a large number of Bangladeshi settlers.
“You might be aware of the significant population of Bangladeshi voters in Santhal Parganas and their love for Mamata didi,” said TMC’s Jharkhand president Bandhu Tirkey who’s the sitting legislator from the Mandar constituency.
Tirkey, however, refused to call them illegal immigrants and said they were legitimate voters who now stay in India.
The five-phase polls will begin on November 25 in the tribal-dominated state, while all 18 constituencies in the Santhal Parganas will vote on December 20, the day of polling.
Tirkey said his party will contest at least three of the 18 seats – Shikaripara, Littipara and Pakur – and the number may go up if there’s a nod from the Kolkata headquarters.
Technically, Jharkhand is closest to the Bangladesh border being separated by river Ganga, though the river border area comes under the jurisdiction of the West Bengal government run by the Trinamool.
Tirkey said that even the UPA would benefit in the bordering areas of West Bengal if it accepts the TMC’s proposal on seat sharing, although he did not disclose the details of the plan.
The Congress that leads the UPA ended its alliance with the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) on Friday following failed seat-sharing talks, casting doubts over the continuation of the Hemant Soren government. Party leaders said they would contest the election along with the RJD and the JD (U), a combine that tasted success in August in the Bihar by-polls.
Right-wing outfits allege that between 50,000 and 1 lakh Bangladeshi immigrants with voter ID cards live in Jharkhand.
“Bangladeshi immigrants are a major problem in areas bordering West Bengal. We are trying hard to deport them,” said Raghubar Das, national vice-president of BJP.