Yesterday, the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee met Union Home Minister Amit Shah. During the meeting, she reportedly raised the NRC issue with Shah. After the meeting, she told reporters, “I handed over a letter to him, told him that of the 19 lakh people left out of NRC, many are Hindi speaking, Bengali speaking and local Assamese. Many genuine voters have been left out. This should be looked into.” She added, “Shah did not say anything about NRC in West Bengal. I have already clarified my stand that NRC is not needed in the state.”
It is important to mention here that the West Bengal CM has always been a staunch critic of the NRC and has been repeatedly arguing against the conduct of any such exercise in the state of West Bengal.
Last year, the TMC supremo went on to say, “The NRC is being done with a political motive. We will not let this happen. They (BJP) are trying to divide the people. The situation cannot be tolerated. There will be a civil war, bloodbath in the country.”
Ever since the final NRC list in Assam was released and facing a rising BJP in the state, the Mamata Banerjee led TMC seems to have become much more concerned about avoiding an exercise like the NRC in the state of West Bengal. It seems that the TMC is worried about the political consequences of an NRC in West Bengal.
The TMC has been accused of making illegal immigrants into vote banks. Her staunch opposition of the NRC only makes this accusation stronger.
It must be noted that Mamata Banerjee has been the face of Islamic appeasement in the state of West Bengal and she has made NRC a central issue of her narrative in line with her appeasement policies. The ‘Bangladeshi’ immigrants also translate into a prolific vote bank. It is relevant to mention here that though the Bangladeshi immigrants are not lawful citizens of India, there have been reports about such immigrants procuring fake Voter ID cards and therefore such immigrants might even exercise voting rights illegally. By opposing the NRC, the TMC has created a vote bank for itself. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is, therefore, looking to avert an exercise like NRC in her state and solidify the emerging vote bank.
It is ironical how it was Mamata Banerjee who had flagged the issue of Bangladeshi immigrants for the first time in Parliament. In 2005, she had stated in the Lok Sabha, “The infiltration in Bengal has become a disaster now… I have both the Bangladeshi & the Indian voters list. This is a very serious matter. I would like to know when would it be discussed in the House?”
Now the question that arises is what has changed in the last 14 years which has led to a complete U-turn in the TMC supremo’s stance over the issue. In 2005, Mamata Banerjee was seen as the principal opposition force to the Communist regime in the state. The left regime was blamed for welcoming ‘aliens’ in the state of West Bengal by Mamata Banerjee resulting in a big issue for the Indian democracy as these ‘aliens’ allegedly found their way into the voters’ list.
The West Bengal CM, Mamata Banerjee has stated in the LS on 4.8..2005: “The infiltration in Bengal has become a disaster now… I have both the Bangladeshi & the Indian voters list. This is a very serious matter. I would like to know when would it be discussed in the House?”
— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) August 1, 2018
14 years down the line, political circumstances have gone a sea change in the state of West Bengal. The left has lost its steam in the state and while the TMC has dominated West Bengal politics for quite some time, BJP has challenged it strongly in the recent past.
The West Bengal CM who had opposed the influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants tooth and nail on the floor of the lower house of the Parliament 14 years ago, is now militating against the idea of identifying illegal immigrants. By opposing the NRC, the TMC has found a new vote bank for itself and if the ‘aliens’ were to be driven out, the TMC would be the biggest loser in the political context of West Bengal. The Mamata led party would end up losing a loyal vote bank that has been created out if its strong opposition to any NRC like exercise in the state.
However, Mamata’s opposition to an NRC in West Bengal should not only be seen in terms of her losing a loyal vote bank in the state. The fact remains that while the BJP’s focus has been on raising the issue of Mamata’s appeasement politics in the state, the West Bengal CM has been trying to portray herself as the saviour of the Muslims.
Opposition to NRC in the state fits perfectly into her narrative of being the saviour of Muslims and also helps her in trying to portray the BJP as the party which is trying to identify and deport poor Bengali Muslims. NRC figures right at the top in TMC’s agenda. This aptly explains Mamata Banerjee’s staunch opposition to an NRC in West Bengal.