AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Sunday met Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui, an influential Muslim cleric of Furfura Sharif located in Jangipara area of Hooghly district, fuelling speculation of a new political understanding ahead of the Assembly elections in West Bengal.
Last March, Siddiqui had announced to launch a political outfit and contest the Assembly elections. However, there has been so perceptible headway in the direction since then.
After holding talks with Siddiqui, Owaisi told mediapersons: “We are holding talks with Abbas Siddiqui on whether to contest polls together or on our own. But he (Siddiqui) is elder to us and together we would like to work here.”
Siddiqui was not available for comments.
Meanwhile, another Muslim cleric of Furfura Sharif, Pirzada Toha Siddiqui, said the Muslim community will vote against communalism in the upcoming elections in the state. “So far, we have voted for development in the state. Be it for the Congress, CPM and the Trinamool Congress. This time we will vote against communalism. We believe in communal harmony and we will vote to protect this harmony,” he told mediapersons.
Owaisi trained his guns at the Trinamool Congress (TMC) accusing the ruling party of allowing the BJP to grow in West Bengal.
After Owaisi had announced last month that his party would contest the upcoming Assembly elections in West Bengal, the TMC had accused it of trying to divide the minority votes to help the BJP.
At Furfura Sharif, West Bengal in a meeting with Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui sb, Pirzada Naushad Siddiqui sb, Pirzada Baizid Amin sb & Janab Sabir Ghaffar sb pic.twitter.com/lptUX24JnJ
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) January 3, 2021
Rejecting the TMC’s charge that it was the “B-team of the BJP”, Owaisi on Sunday said: “We are a political party. We have come here to establish our presence and contest the Assembly elections… Where was Mamata Banerjee when Gujarat was burning? We did not contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Then how come the BJP won 18 seats in Bengal? Did she (TMC chief Mamata Banerjee) enter into an understanding with them? We had contested 20 seats in Bihar Assembly elections. Of them, we won in five, the Mahagathbandhan of the Congress and RJD won in nine and the BJP and its allies won in six constituencies. The charge against us that we are the B-team of the BJP is baseless and false,” Owaisi added.
Referring to the recent defection of party leaders from the Trinamool Congress, the AIMIM chief said, “The TMC should introspect and find out why it cannot stop the BJP in Bengal. The party should analyse why its members are leaving. We cannot give an answer to all these.”
Owaisi said his party would highlight “underdevelopment of Bengal” in its election campaign and would canvass for “political empowerment of weaker sections”. “These two will be our party’s two major poll planks,” Owaisi said.
The TMC hit back, labelling the AIMIM as “ nothing but a proxy of the BJP”. Senior TMC leader and MP Sougata Roy said: “Owaisi is well aware that Muslims in Bengal are mostly Bengali-speaking and not Urdu-speaking. Therefore they won’t support his party. He is trying to forge ties with Abbas Siddiqui but that won’t yield any result. Muslims in Bengal stand firmly by Mamata Banerjee.”
The BJP, meanwhile, said they were not bothered about Owaisi and his party making attempts to carve a political space in the state.
“…We are not concerned about who is coming and going. Our slogan is Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas. Those who indulge in appeasement of Muslims are feeling threatened. In a democracy, anyone can contest elections,” said West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh.
Why AIMIM is wooing local cleric
Asaduddin Owaisi’s meeting with Furfura Sharif cleric Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui is seen as an attempt by the AIMIM chief to form a minority-dominated political front in West Bengal ahead of the Assembly elections.
Since this would be AIMIM’s electoral debut in the state after its good showing in the Assembly elections in neighbouring Bihar, the Hyderabad-based outfit with Hindi-speaking Muslims is keen to get the support of local Bengali-speaking Muslims — Muslims constitute 30% of the state’s population, of which 24% speak Bengali.
However, any success of AIMIM to form a Muslim-dominated front in the polls could prove detrimental to the ruling Trinamool Congress, which as per the 2019 Lok Sabha election, has only a meagre 3% lead over rival BJP.