Alleging that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been striving for the support of “minority voters” in the middle of the ongoing assembly elections, union home minister Amit Shah on Friday said that “she should know that the rest of them are also listening to her”. In what analysts see as an apparent prod towards Hindus, he said now they should think about what they have to do.
“The way she is seeking the support of minorities clearly shows that her biggest strength is no longer with her. She is scared of losing the elections,” Shah said at a press conference in Kolkata. “Mamata di should know that the others are also listening to her minority call. She is not seeking support from the others and now they have to take the call. Now they have to take the decision.”
In Bengal, with a more than 31 per cent Muslim vote share, the community was a key factor behind the Left Front rule lasting 34 years in the state. In 2011, Mamata came to power with the support of Muslim voters, and this time they are once again going to be a crucial factor for any political party to form the next government. The BJP knows it well that any significant division in the Muslim vote share, a key element in nearly 90 assembly segments out of the 294 in the state, could jeopardise Mamata Banerjee’s hopes of retaining power. For instance, popular cleric Abbas Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front, which has joined the Left-Congress alliance, could spoil the TMC’s game and improve the BJP’s chances by eating into the Muslim vote share.
The home minister also criticised Mamata over her recent comments that the central forces were helping the Bharatiya Janata Party in the polls by intimidating voters and also her appeal to the people to ‘gherao’ the security personnel if stopped from casting their ballot.
“It is unfortunate that she is making such comments. She should know during elections, the Election Commission (EC) controls the security forces and not the home ministry,” said Shah. “Instead of criticising the central forces and the EC, she should do an assessment of why the Trinamool Congress is losing this election. We condemn her remark and it seems that she does not want a free-and-fair election in Bengal.”
The Election Commission has sought an explanation from the chief minister on the matter, citing her speeches on March 28 and April 7.
Shah also said that the BJP is confident of winning 63-68 assembly seats out of the 91 in the first three rounds of the eight-phase elections, held on March 27, April 1 and April 6.
“Polling in three phases is complete in West Bengal and as of now we are confident of winning 63-68 seats. TMC’s days are numbered and we are certainly going to win more than 200 seats in the state,” he said.
Voting in the state will now take place on April 10, 17, 22, 26 and 29, before counting on May 2.
The minister also promised to create a “future city” in Bengal and pledged to start the BJP’s promised Sonar Bangla (glorious Bengal) mission from Kolkata with a package of Rs 22,000 crore. “We are also planning to make Bengal the next financial hub of India and efforts will be taken to review the Calcutta Stock Exchange,” he said.
On political rallies and roadshows by political parties amid rising Covid-19 cases in the country, he said everyone should be careful but political activities are decided by the EC. “This falls under the jurisdiction of EC and I am sure they are aware of the present Covid-19 situation. Actually, there is no ‘temporary provision’ in our Constitution (to postpone election) after the end of the assembly’s tenure,” said Shah.
Shah rejected reports of Covid-19 vaccine shortage in parts of the country and said such allegations were false.