Kolkata: Even as party leaders continue to act offensive against alleged Muslim infiltrators in West Bengal, the Bharatiya Janata Party realises that it cannot ignore the Muslim electorate. In a bid to woo Muslim voters before the 2019 elections the BJP has started an outreach program at the micro level.
“Muslims in Bengal must realise that only the BJP can assure them development," said Ali Hossain, the president of the party’s minority cell. “Largesse from the Trinamool Congress is only meant to buy their votes," he added.
According to Hossain minority leaders from the party have been tasked to reach out to every Muslim household in the state. “We will acquaint them with the inclusive nature of the policies of the central government," Hossain said. The Ujwala Yojana, which aims at providing Liquefied Petroleum Gas connections to BPL households, tops the list of such policies, Hossain said.
The BJP government’s stern anti-triple talaq stand will also help the party gain traction among the Muslim masses in Bengal, he added.
The resident Muslim population in Bengal, according to the 2011 census constitutes 27.01% of the state. Malda and Murshidabad, the districts with 51.27% and 66.28% Muslim population, are the primary targets of the party.
Formerly Congress bastions, the TMC dominates the political power in both these districts. However in the recently concluded Panchayat polls the BJP has made major inroads in both these districts. While in Malda it bagged 532 gram panchayat seats as compared to 399 by the Congress, in Murshidabad with 123 seats it was just 64 seats behind Congress.
BJP’s aggressive attack against illegal Muslim infiltrators have worked wonders for them in several pockets, but a comprehensive anti-Muslim stand has aggrieved the minority voters, agrees local leader who asked not to be identified. “The outreach strategy is a damage control initiative," this person said.
The drive will also help to clarify the party’s stand on infiltration Sayantan Basu, BJP state general secretary said. “Our problem is with the Bangladeshi infiltrators and not the Muslim inhabitants of the state," Basu said.
TMC leader and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has claimed that the BJP is trying to divide the electorate on religious lines using the National Register of Citizens as a tool.
Basu also clarified that his party will not take any harsh stand against consumption of beef in the state. Bengal is one of the major beef consuming states in India. “Anybody is free to eat anything as long as the animal is slaughtered legally," Basu said. The party had taken a similar lenient stand in the question of banning beef consumption in the North-Eastern states.
Sunil Deodhar, a senior party leader had earlier said since the majority population in Tripura and other North-Eastern states consume beef and thus no ban will be implemented here.
However, the BJP reaching out to Muslims is not a very well thought strategy according to many. According to Biswanath Chakraborty, independent election analyst and professor of Political Science at the Rabindra Bharati University, in Kolkata, BJP has to get rid of its ‘Muslim hater’ tag first. “The party needs to undertake some macro level program to shun the anti-Muslim impression before it reaches out to Muslim households for votes," Chakraborty said.