Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday addressed over a lakh Muslims at a rally of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) at Shahid Minar ground in Kolkata, triggering speculations of an understanding between the Jamiat and the Trinamool Congress in the run up to the Assembly polls next year.
Asked if Jamiat would enter into a seat-sharing agreement with Trinamool, Siddiqullah Chowdhury, general secretary of the Bengal unit of the party, said: “At the moment, nothing of this sort has been discussed but this can be a possibility. I have sent a message. She (Mamata) will have to decide how to react to it. Several meetings will have to be held before a consensus, if any, can be arrived on seat-sharing.”
Chowdhury, who had earlier spoken openly against the Mamata and Trinamool, was all praise for the CM on Thursday. “I must admit she has done a lot more for Muslims compared to her predecessor, the Left Front, which had only been theoretical about Muslim welfare,” he said.
However, later, speaking to The Indian Express on the sidelines of the rally, Chowdhury said: “We have been instructed not to enter into a clash with her at the moment… only cooperating with her will help meet our demands.”
Addressing the rally, Mamata said she had and would always work for the development of the members of the minority community. “Siddiqullah Chowdhury had once come to invite me at Nabanna during the month of Ramzan. Since it was the time for namaz, he offered namaz in my office on the 14th floor,” she said.
Mamata said she had taken note of the suggestions made by Siddiqullah and would do the needful after speaking to her officials.
Without naming the BJP, Mamata said many questions have been raised over her attending the rally. “My Constitution has given me the freedom to eat and wear what I choose or being with people I want to and going places I feel like. Who are they to decide these? Would someone be killed because he had beef? I have chicken, what will you do to me?” she asked.
Speaking on the development projects that her government had introduced for the Muslim community, the CM said the aim is to develop the minorities. “No one should point a finger and say that he is a terrorist… none of my minority brothers and sisters are terrorists… It was unfair to call all Muslims terrorists as terrorists have no castes or creeds. Anti-socials are anti-socials, criminals are criminals, terrorists are terrorists,” she added.
Addressing the rally, Faruque Ahmed, editor of a magazine ‘Udar Akash’, said: “I would suggest that Murshidabad, which has the highest Muslim population, should get a university… this would fetch more Muslim support for the CM.”
The rally, meanwhile, invited sharp criticism from the Opposition. State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said it was a pity that Mamata had to join hands with Siddiqullah to get Muslim support. “This is a political defeat for Mamata Banerjee because she has held the hands of the person against whom she had lodged criminal cases last year for attacking the police. She understands that she is getting separated from the Muslim community,” he said.
State BJP leader Ashim Sarkar too said: “How shameless can a person get if he or she has to share stage and join hands with those who had been charged with attacking her own police force.”
Claiming that Mamata used the rally for her political gain, CPM leader Rabin Deb said: “She has lost it. She is talking about going to jail. She uses the police to beat up Left Front workers and shake hands with those who had beaten up her cops. She had expressed her fear of being jailed because CBI is closing in on her.”