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Massage for minorities

New Delhi, Dec. 4: A convention held here today tried to win back Muslim support for the Left Front in Bengal ahead of next year’s Assembly polls.

Speaker after speaker at the National Convention for Muslim Rights highlighted the “great deeds done by the West Bengal government for the welfare of the minorities”.

The topic of discussion was the implementation of the recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission and the Sachar Committee. The Bengal government’s decision to give 10 per cent job reservation to backward Muslims and set up a branch of the Aligarh Muslim University were mentioned by each of the around 10 speakers.

Former CPM MP Mohammad Salim and Bengal ministers Anisur Rehman and Abdus Sattar were among the speakers. Top party leaders, including general secretary Prakash Karat, politburo member Brinda Karat, Subhashini Ali, Hannan Mollah and Neelotpal Basu, were part of the audience.

But the organisers — minority groups with Left leanings — insisted the convention was not held to canvass support for the CPM, which blames a drop in Muslim votes for the electoral setbacks it has suffered, and said the publicity the Bengal government got was “incidental”.

“It is quite incidental that most speakers mentioned the Bengal government. They could not have helped it because Left governments, whether in Bengal or Kerala, have been among the most minority-friendly governments,” said Anwar Pasha of the Muslim Intelligentsia Forum, one of the organisers.

However, a CPM central committee member acknowledged the political intention of the convention. “The CPM, being CPM, cannot be seen playing to the minority gallery. Everything has to be done tactically,” he said.

That the Congress has entered into an alliance with the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind-led People’s Democratic Conference of India and Mamata Banerjee has invited the All India United Democratic Front of Assam MP, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, to join the fight against the CPM is worrying the Left deeply.

The central committee member said the CPM would have a chance in the Bengal elections only if it could win back the support of Muslims, who form over 25 per cent of the state’s population. “Only our Muslim brothers can save us from a rout.”

The party leader added that the CPM had erred in Kerala by antagonising the minorities, as was evident in the recent panchayat polls.

At the convention, even representatives from other parties — M.A.A. Fatmi of the RJD and Ali Anwar of the JD(U) — spoke of the CPM’s “good deeds for Muslims” in Bengal. Awaaz, from Hyderabad, and the Calcutta-based Democratic Forum for National Integration that has Salim as its chairperson, were the convention’s co-organisers.

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