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Alliance no-go casts polarisation cloud on Ghani turf  

In 2019, BJP bagged Malda Uttar by margin of 84,000 votes while it marginally lost the Malda Dakshin seat to Congress by 8,222 votes

Soumya De Sarkar Malda Published 06.05.24, 06:48 AM
Sitting MP Khagen Murmu, the BJP candidate in Malda Uttar, interacts with voters in the Harischandrapur Assembly segment in Malda

Sitting MP Khagen Murmu, the BJP candidate in Malda Uttar, interacts with voters in the Harischandrapur Assembly segment in Malda Picture by Soumya De Sarkar

“Wish there was an alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress,” Mohammad Ziaur Rahman, a madrasa teacher, said on a scorching May morning sitting in his home at Harishchandrapur in Malda.

The 39-year-old teacher took care to explain that he has never been involved in politics as the “two objectives” of his life have been to run his family of six with his humble income and “empower” his students — most of whom come from humble backgrounds — with knowledge to ensure a proper future for them.


“But as a Muslim, I feel scared these days... I do not want communal tensions and that’s why I pray for the victory of any party other than the BJP in Malda,” said the voter of Malda Uttar constituency.

Malda, which has around 50 per cent Muslim population, has seen some instances of communal strife in the last 10 years, especially since the rise of the BJP as a political force in the district from 2016.

In 2019, the BJP bagged Malda Uttar by a margin of 84,000 votes while it marginally lost the Malda Dakshin seat to the Congress by 8,222 votes.

Two years later, in the 2021 Assembly polls, the BJP bagged only four seats in the district, but the vote percentage — 35 per cent, almost similar to that secured in the 2019 polls — made it clear that the BJP has emerged as a major political force in Malda.

Ahead of May 7 — when around 38 lakh voters in the two Malda seats will cast their votes — there is a buzz across the district that both the BJP nominees, Khagen Murmu in Malda Uttar and Sreerupa Mitra Choudhury in Malda Dakshin, may sail through because of the consolidation of Hindu votes, an objective that the saffron camp pursued vigorously over the last five years.

In the run-up to the polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a public meeting and the content of his speech — where he spoke on the INDIA bloc’s plan to snatch properties of tribals, women and the poor and hand over the proceeds to their “votebank” — made it clear that the BJP was clearly aiming at polarisation of the electorate.

The agenda was taken forward by other central leaders like Union home minister Amit Shah and defence minister Rajnath Singh, who spoke on everything, ranging from the Ram temple to the Citizenship Amendment Act during their campaigns.

“If the Prime Minister of the country openly makes such statements, we have reasons to worry... Other than a few instances, people in Malda have been living peacefully for decades,” said Asrarul Haque, who runs a private coaching centre in Kaliachak-I block.

“From this district, we have instances of Hindu students getting highest marks in Arabic and Muslims students getting distinction in Sanskrit. That fabric of religious tolerance has been lost,” he went on, before adding that resistance to this brand of politics can only be put up if the BJP nominees lose in the hustings.

According to him, an alliance between the TMC and the Congress could have ensured a rout of the BJP as it would have brought a majority of Muslim votes and a sizeable proportion of the Hindu votes to the same kitty.

“Sadly, that’s not going to happen... The failure to stitch an alliance has put the BJP in an advantageous position,” said Haque.

In support of his apprehensions, Haque referred to the split in minority votes, which resulted in Murmu’s victory from Malda Uttar and a slender margin of defeat for Sreerupa in Malda Dakshin in 2019.

Some secular Hindu voices are also expressing similar concerns in the run-up to the May 7 contest in Malda which has been a fief of the Ghani Khan family for years.

“This district has the legacy of ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury, who was truly a secular leader... It is sad that the Congress and the TMC failed to reach an understanding. The biggest victim of their failure would be the secular political tradition,” said Indrajit Singha, a lawyer based in Malda.

While the residents, who are against the saffron ecosystem, are upset with the TMC and Congress for not coming together, some of the party leaders also admit that the alliance would have paved a smooth victory for their candidates.

“A single candidate against BJP, in alliance with Trinamool, would have guaranteed the defeat of the saffron party in Malda. Our party leaders waited till the last moment but the TMC went ahead and declared candidates in all 42 seats of the state,” said Isha Khan Choudhury, the Congress candidate from the Malda Dakshin seat.

Mausam Noor, the Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP — both she and Isha bear the lineage of Ghani Khan — made a similar claim, while passing the blame to the Congress.

“An alliance with the Congress in Malda would have meant a confirmed defeat for the BJP. But the state Congress leadership lacked willingness to forge a tie with us. On one hand, they went on making instigating remarks at our leaders and on the other, joined hands with the CPM. This brought the negotiations to an end,” said Noor.

Malda Uttar & Malda Dakshin vote on May 7

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