Anindya Sengupta, TT,
Calcutta, May 20: The Trinamul Congress has won 104 of the 125 Assembly seats that have a considerable presence of minorities, bettering its 2011 tally at a time there were suggestions that a chunk of these votes could drift away from Mamata Banerjee to the Left-Congress alliance.
In the 2011 Assembly elections, Trinamul had won 91 of these 125 seats. In 2006, when the Left had bagged 235 seats, the combine had won in 102 constituencies with considerable minority presence, reaffirming the importance of these votes to the electoral fortunes of the victor.
Trinamul’s best-ever performance in north Bengal, where it won 24 of 54 seats, was aided in considerable measure by the support of the minorities. In Cooch Behar, North Dinajpur and parts of South Dinajpur, which have a heavy presence of minorities, Trinamul won 14 of the 24 seats.
A similar picture emerged in Hooghly, Howrah, North and South 24-Parganas, Burdwan and Birbhum, which have several minority belts that were once Left strongholds. Trinamul won 96 of the 102 seats in these districts.
CPM politburo member Mohammad Salim said: “We will have to analyse the results and then take a call. During Left rule, our government had introduced reservations for Muslims in government jobs. It’s not that we didn’t do anything for them.”
The Sachar committee report in 2005 had painted a dismal picture of the condition of Muslims. Sources said Mamata’s repeated reference to the findings had paid off as the minority votes swung in her favour.
During Mamata’s first term in office, the Opposition had often alleged that she was trying to woo the minorities through token gestures. However, her decision to give honorariums to imams and muezzins and scholarships to meritorious minority community students and her announcement that more funds would be provided for the development of madarsas appeared to have paid her rich dividends.
Her decision to spend government funds for the upkeep of burial grounds and her move to ensure that festivities of multiple communities do not clash so that tension can be avoided also helped her.
“Our chief minister has genuine concern for Muslims. She never differentiates between communities,” Trinamul MP Idris Ali said.
At the political level too, Mamata sent a message to the minorities by attending a rally organised by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind in Calcutta and giving the outfit’s leader, Siddiqullah Chowdhury, a ticket to contest the Assembly elections.
Her move to induct expelled CPM leader Abdur Rezzak Mollah into Trinamul and allow him to contest the polls is believed to have sent across the message that she was “giving importance” to minority leaders outside her party’s fold.