Cooch Behar, the district where TMC won 8 seats out of 9 in the last assembly election seems to be slipping out of the hands of Mamata Banerjee this time. Rajbongshis or Koch-Rajbongshis, the people indigenous to the region of Cooch Behar, want the large number of Bangladeshis who have infiltrated the district to be thrown out of the district, and BJP is the only party supporting the National Registrar of Citizens.
In the 2019 general election, the Amit Shah-led party won the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha constituency, riding on the promise of CAA-NRC. In order to keep the Muslim voters (who constitute around one-third of the state’s voter base) on her side, Mamata Banerjee vehemently opposed CAA-NRC; this brought the Muslim voters closer to her party but pushed the communities like Matua and Rajbongshi away.
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 ironic 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.
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 of its strong opposition to any NRC-like exercise in the state.
However, the opposition to CAA-NRC also means losing votes of the majority Hindu community, and this is what is happening in the Northern and Western regions of the state, where the Hindu community completely abandoned Mamata Banerjee in the last general election itself and expected to pave the way for BJP CM in the state.