On 23rd May this year, the Trinamool Congress offices and district units saw a deserted look, despite winning the most number of parliamentary seats from West Bengal. However, they had no clue that a newbie in the state, the Bhartiya Janata Party would thunder the state and steal 18 seats from under Mamata Didi’s nose.
Mamata Banerjee, often seen as a communal, polarizing and minority over-sympathizer has now taken a dig at Asaduddin Owaisi and his AIMIM. A significant statement coming from her, warning the TMC party cadre against ‘minority extremism’. In an address to party workers in Coochbehar, Mamata Banerjee said, “I am watching that there are some extremists among the minorities. They have their base in Hyderabad. Don’t listen to them.” She further called the BJP, Congress and CPM ‘Jagai, Madhai and Gadai’, and said that “The CPM have now joined the BJP to become Ustads. The leaders of CPM and Cingress are taking anti-BJP stance in Delhi, but when it comes to Bengal, they are all ganging up against Trinamool.”
Although Mamata keeps targeting the BJP, Left and the Congress, her statement on the AIMIM and Owaisi is significant. She did not explicitly name Owaisi and his party, however, her ‘Hyderabad’ mention tells the story itself. She has perhaps realized that the Hindu vote is fragmented in Bengal, if not totally against her. Therefore, in an attempt to consolidate her position among the Hindus and win over their trust, Mamata Banerjee has decided to change her tone on minorities and the virulent extremism prevailing among a section of them. If Mamata Banerjee does not attempt an image makeover of herself among the Hindus, her chances of returning to power in 2021 seem grim. Therefore, while in Coochbehar, she also visited the Madan Mohan Mandir and offered prayers, moments after having met her party cadre and addressed them.
Mamata Banerjee has never shied away from blatantly appeasing and fooling the primary minority community in Bengal- the Muslims. How she prohibited Durga idol immersion to facilitate Muharram processions is a known fact. Apart from this, she has discriminated between Hindus and Muslims on multiple counts, treating the former as second class citizens. After the May poll debacle, she has probably woken from her slumber and smelled the coffee right. She is now attempting to strike a balance between the Hindus and Muslims- by appeasing both. Not only is this out-rightly bizarre, but it is also not a sure method of winning the trust of Hindus in a state where they have suffered continuously at the hands of the Left first, and now the TMC.
Asaduddin Owaisi rebutted Mamata Banerjee by saying that it wasn’t religious extremism “to say that Bengal’s Muslims have one of the worst human development indicators of any minority“. Owaisi’s AIMIM has been steadily spreading it’s wings across India. Although it has a substantial base in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, prior to the Lok Sabha elections, Owaisi allied with Prakash Ambedkar’s party in Maharashtra. In the recent bypolls, AIMIM won from Kishanganj in Bihar. While campaigning here, Owaisi’s video of a peculiar dance went super viral. With every election, Owasi is growing more intolerant and communal, imbibing Jinnah’s ideology quite crudely. Mamata Banerjee may even be feeling threatened by the growing footprint of Owaisi’s party. If at all Owaisi decides to contest in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s appeasement would bear no fruits whatsoever, as Owaisi would easily tap into the extremist sentiment and win handsomely amongst the minority stronghold constituencies.
Soon after the Lok Sabha poll drubbing, Mamata got ace political strategist Prashant Kishore on-board to help her hold fort against the BJP tsunami which is bound to hit the state in the near future. Prashant Kishore was the BJP’s election strategist for the 2014 general elections, and many acknowledge him to be a significant contributor to the party’s trumping victory. Ever-since, the man has dealed with various parties across India, including the JD(U), and now the TMC. Prashant Kishore knows that the Hindu vote is quintessential for any BJP victory. Therefore, the only reason why Mamata Banerjee is looking to win over Hindus is the advice and long-term strategy of Prashant Kishore. Didi wouldn’t have had a dream that it is the need of the hour to give up minority appeasement and turn her eyes towards the Hindus. There is a greater game at play here.