Mamata Banerjee VS Asaduddin Owaisi

A war of words has erupted between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.

  • 22nd Nov 2019

A war of words has erupted between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. It began with Banerjee accusing the AIMIM of taking money from the BJP. At a public meeting in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar on 18 November, Banerjee said:

Even though she didn’t mention the AIMIM by name, it was clear that she was referring to the Hyderabad MP’s party.

Not one to take attacks lying down, Owaisi retaliated by accusing Mamata of keeping Bengal’s Muslims backward.

Countering the “taking money from BJP” allegation, Owaisi accused Banerjee of aiding the rise of the BJP in West Bengal.

Continuing with the AIMIM’s offensive, the party’s Uttar Pradesh Unit Chief Syed Asim Waqar, who is also officiating as the head of its West Bengal Unit, tweeted a picture of Banerjee with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This is from the time when the Trinamool Congress was an ally of the BJP.

Even though Jan Sangh Founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee hailed from Bengal, the party and its later avatar – BJP – remained a marginal player in the state. This changed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, with the party getting 17 percent of the votes.

At that time, the TMC was on a high, having uprooted the over two-decade long Left Front rule in 2011. Naturally, there was no way the BJP could challenge the TMC. But the party began occupying the anti-TMC space, growing at the expense of the Left.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP got 40.7 percent votes.

The BJP’s rise in 2019 was the result of a large-scale shift of Hindu votes from the Left and the TMC to the saffron party. According to the Lokniti-CSDS survey, the BJP got 57 percent of the Hindu votes, an increase of 36 percentage points from 2014.

The BJP had a healthy lead over TMC among Hindus across caste lines and among Adivasis as well. However, the TMC still won 22 seats, 4 more than the BJP, mainly due to the support of Muslims.

The Quint used the data provided by the CSDS survey as well as the 2011 Census to estimate the community-wise share within TMC voters.

According to this estimate, Muslims may have accounted for a whopping 44 percent of all TMC voters.

This shows how deeply Mamata Banerjee’s prospect of winning a third term as West Bengal chief minister is tied to the consolidation of Muslim votes.

TMC insiders say that the 2021 Assembly polls won’t be as bad as the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as many voters who chose BJP due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity may shift to the TMC as Banerjee is the tallest leader in the state.

The BJP, however, fancies its chances of expanding among Hindu voters even further.

In either case, it becomes essential for the TMC to hold on to its support among Muslims.

Muslims account for 27.5 percent of West Bengal’s population, according to the 2011 Census. The CSDS survey estimates that in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, as many as 70 percent of West Bengal’s Muslims voted for the TMC, followed by 12 percent for the Congress, 10 percent for the Left and 4 percent for the BJP.

As compared to 2014, this was a huge increase of 30 percentage points for the TMC. It came largely at the expense of the Left, whose popularity among Muslims fell by 21 percentage points and Congress, whose supported among the community halved.

It was this 30 percentage point swing among Muslims that saved the TMC, which has suffered a loss of around 8 percentage points among Hindus in the last five years. By attacking the AIMIM, Mamata isn’t just trying to prevent a shift of Muslim votes, she is also trying to counter the BJP’s allegation of Muslim appeasement and win back some Hindu votes.

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