In an apparent reference to All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said she is “watching some extremists among minorities” who have their “base in Hyderabad”.
The Trinamool Congress chief made the statement while addressing party workers at Coochbehar in North Bengal. This is the first time that Banerjee has made a reference to “minority” extremism as she looks to fine-tune her rhetoric against an expansionist BJP and at the same time guard against Owaisi making inroads.
The Hyderabad MP, Owaisi, has sought to expand his party’s footprint outside Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in the last five years. He got into an alliance with RPI faction led by Prakash Ambedkar in Maharashtra to inflict damage on both NCP and Congress and NCP in Lok Sabha and RS polls.
His party recently won a bypoll to Kishangunj Assembly seat. The assembly segment with a high concentration of minorities borders West Bengal. He has also been trying to make inroads into Bengal.
Last week an AIMIM spokesperson in Bengal had made a provocative statement and WB CM’s strong statement on Owaisi is being seen to quell attempts to polarize polity.
Banerjee’s remark, although it did not name anyone, drew a sharp response from Owaisi, who tweeted that it’s not religious extremism to say that Bengal’s Muslims have one of the worst human development indicators of any minority.
“If Didi is worried about a bunch of us ‘from Hyderabad’ then she should tell us how BJP won 18/42 LS seats from Bengal,” he wrote.
The Bengal CM’s statement on “minority extremism” came after she offered prayers at the Madan Mohan Temple in Coochbehar and then visited the Rash Mela on the Rajbari gorunds. Her visit came six days after BJP’s Coochbehar MP Nisith Pramanik came in a grand procession to the temple last Tuesday.
Political observers said her statement combined with her temple visit is also indicative of the fact that she is desperate to win over the Hindu votes, both Bengali and Rajbanshi, who hold the key in Coochbehar.