Mollah steps up community drive

Calcutta, Nov. 16: CPM MLA Abdur Rezzak Mollah, whose recent Haj trip raised eyebrows in his party, today urged his community to come together for its concerns to be addressed, appearing to go against communist principles that frown on identity politics.

At a gathering in Calcutta of community leaders who had assembled to felicitate him on his return from the pilgrimage, Mollah urged Muslim fringe groups to come together and assert their presence.

"According to the new census, the Muslim population in Bengal is 30 per cent. It is a magical figure in any democracy," the Canning East MLA, who has been censured several times for speaking against party policies, said.

He said Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes comprised another 10 per cent of the population and if they joined ranks with the Muslims, it would become a powerful bloc in the elections.

"If these groups have common concerns and a common agenda, the political parties will be forced to address their issues," Mollah said.

Sources in the CPM said Mollah's comment might not go down well with Alimuddin Street. Ignoring reservations of a section of the party, Mollah had last year floated a minority organisation ' Naya Zamana ' to address the concerns of poor Muslims.

Mollah said he would not quit his party. "I will remain in the party and convince the leadership to build pressure on Mamata Banerjee to work for the development of the minorities," he said.

Since the Left debacle in the Assembly elections last year, Mollah has been criticising his party for its "failure" to connect the Muslims to the mainstream.

A political observer said: "He is trying to project himself as a face of the community through his recent actions."

Since his arrival from the holy cities of Mecca and Medina earlier this week, Mollah has been flooded with invitations from Muslim groups who want to know about his experience.

People's Democratic Conference of India leader Siddiqullah Choudhury visited Mollah at his home in Canning.

"It has become a talking point in the community now. He is a veteran politician and understands the problems of the minorities, especially in the rural areas. We will urge him to speak more about the plight of minorities in Bengal," said Abdul Aziz of the Milli Itehad Parishad, a Muslim organisation that organised today's felicitation.