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Minority card in poll season

Retired IPS officer Nazrul Islam at the news conference on Monday; (above) Abdur Rezzak Mollah. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Calcutta, March 3: Two faces in Bengal are hoping to mobilise the minorities and backward classes and cause some concern for the Trinamul Congress and the Left before the Lok Sabha elections.

Abdur Rezzak Mollah, expelled from the CPM last week, has spoken of his plans to take forward his Samajik Nyaybichar Mancha to fight for the Dalits and the Muslims of Bengal. Today, retired IPS officer Nazrul Islam echoed Mollah, saying his intention was to ensure justice for these groups.

It is not clear whether Nazrul will join Mollah in taking forward their common cause. But the former police officer dropped some hints while addressing a news conference this afternoon.

“I haven’t taken any decision to join Rezzak Mollah or the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to contest the coming Lok Sabha elections. I have formed a platform named Mulbashi Samity, which will work to educate Muslims and backward classes. I will decide my next course of action, which can be floating a new organisation or joining Rezzak Mollah or the AAP,” Nazrul said.

Nazrul also released three of his books, in which he has criticised the Mamata Banerjee government.

According to a Mulbashi Samity spokesperson, Nazrul is likely to address a conference with Mollah next week.

In Bengal, the combined strength of the Dalits and the Muslims is around 47 per cent. The Dalits had mostly voted for the Left for 34 years. So had the majority of Muslims.

Mamata, however, recast the electoral equations as she managed to tap the discontent of the minority community and courted it, which paved the way for her victory in 2011. After becoming the chief minister, she used the government apparatus to expand her appeal and launched several community-related events.

The government made inroads in the backward classes by involving them in the 100-day work programme and by providing part-time municipal work in the districts.

Now that the elections are nearing, both Mollah and Nazrul are trying to champion the cause of the minorities and the backward classes. Mollah has gone a step further, trying to present a picture of a Dalit becoming the chief minister and a Muslim the deputy.

“The last few years have seen a rise in identity politics, which has resulted in fragmentation in the political space…. The political parties have realised this change and so everyone is trying to play the identity card,” said a city-based political scientist.

The CPM is scouting for minority and Dalit faces for the polls. Some Left leaders said the efforts by Nazrul and Mollah at consolidating the Dalit-Muslim vote bank had the potential to cause chinks in the Trinamul and Left armour to some extent.

“But whether that will be possible now is a question… Mollah has declared that he has his eyes set on the 2016 Assembly polls, while Nazrul is yet to lay his cards on the table. We also don’t know whether they will join hands. But it is clear that all the parties will play the identity card,” said a Trinamul leader.

Although earlier attempts — like the one by Muslim leader Siddiqullah Chowdhury, who had organised mass movements of the minorities before the 2011 Assembly elections — did not yield much result, the scenario may be a bit different this time, he added.