Some 120 families from erstwhile Bangladeshi enclaves and are mostly from the minority community, shifted allegiance to Trinamul at Dinhata in Cooch Behar on Tuesday, in a major setback for the saffron camp.
Since 2015, when the enclaves merged with the Indian mainland and became Indian villages, most dwellers supported the BJP, with the party securing a number of seats in the 2018 panchayat elections. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the Assembly elections held earlier this year, these people had supported the BJP.
“Cooch Behar is a district where the BJP had the support of many Muslims, especially dwellers of former enclaves. In fact, a number of youths from these villages were office bearers of BJP’s frontal organisations in the district. The BJP also publicised this to say it enjoys the support of minorities,” said a political observer.
However, the tables have turned against the BJP. Around 120 families of erstwhile enclaves like Madhya Mashaldanga, Dakshin Mashaldanga and Poaturkuthi (all in Dinhata subdivision of the district), joined Mamata Banerjee’s party at an event in Salmara under Dinhata-II block on Tuesday.
Udayan Guha, the immediate past Trinamul MLA of Dinhata, who lost to the BJP’s Nisith Pramanik by 57 votes this time, was present at the event. As Pramanik is also the Cooch Behar MP and has resigned as MLA, Dinhata will have a bypoll soon.
On minorities quitting the BJP for Trinamul, Guha said they realised that the BJP only makes “hollow promises” and the leaders play the polarisation card. “Unlike the BJP in power at the Centre, Mamata Banerjee has kept her promises. In the coming days, BJP will be wiped out from these areas,” said Guha.
Jainal Abedin, who stays in one of the former enclaves, and was a general secretary and vice-president of the BJP’s young wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha for years, was among those who quit the BJP on Tuesday.
“We are fed up with the divisive politics of BJP. Some leaders do speak of inclusiveness but ultimately practise religion-based politics. That is why we felt it necessary to join Trinamul,” said Abedin, the grandson of Asgar Ali, one of the leaders at the forefront of a movement for the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh that happened in 2015 under a bilateral pact.
BJP leaders, however, are confident of retaining their support base.
“A few families of Dinhata may have joined Trinamul but thousands in the district are still with us,” said Diptiman Sengupta, a district BJP leader.