Floodgates shut

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Floodgates shut

Thursday, 04 February 2021 | Pioneer

Floodgates shut

Having plucked several leaders in Bengal, the BJP is suddenly and curiously concerned about a clean image

After seeking to make an impressive dent in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly by aggressively poaching a number of leaders belonging to the rival parties ahead of the State elections, the BJP has suddenly turned coy. Without assigning any cogent reason for the development, it has abruptly announced that it would henceforth not induct members of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) en masse. Though the officially assigned reason is that the BJP does “not want to become the B-team” of the ruling party and is sceptical of the new joinees having a tarnished image, there is ground to believe that the actualities are more deep-rooted. The BJP has certainly gained strength in the State; the proof is in the pudding: It has inducted since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections 18 MLAs and an MP belonging to the TMC, three MLAs each of the CPI(M) and the Congress and an MLA from the CPI. However, the new arrivals and the importance given to them have caused significant resentment and heartburn among the old guard and caused a divide in the saffron party.

Be that as it may, the development must have allowed the TMC — which was being squeezed in from several quarters in the State’s electoral arena — to have a huge sigh of relief. It is a matter of record that the Mamata Banerjee-led unit has of late been a worried party; virtually in the throes of a crisis after successive desertions by senior office-bearers and influential community leaders. Another of her challenges in the forthcoming elections comes from AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, who is hoping to find favour with influential Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui, the ‘Peerzada’ of Furfura Sharif — a much-revered shrine in Bengal’s Hooghly district. Bengal’s Muslim population stood at 27.01 per cent in the 2011 census and is projected to have increased to around 30 per cent now. The community’s population is substantially high in at least nine districts of the State but several clerics and imams close to the ruling dispensation discount the idea that Owaisi & Co will be acceptable to Bengal’s voters. It is in this respect that Mamata’s party is growing closer to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), whose leader Lalu Prasad she shares cordial relations with, with the apparent aim of letting that party contest a few constituencies on the inter-State border that have a sizeable number of Hindi-speaking voters.

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