The Trinamul Congress leadership in Nadia has launched a minority community outreach to increase people’s awareness about the Mamata Banerjee government’s welfare initiatives so that the crucial support base does not wither before the panchayat elections.
The district leadership of Bengal’s ruling party has also begun interactive meetings and door-to-door sessions to woo the minority voters so that no pent-up grievance gives “fodder” to the Opposition.
This initiative, in addition to the Didir Suraksha Kawach outreach, is being prioritised against the backdrop of Trinamul’s recent “shock” bypoll defeat in the Muslim-majority Sagardighi Assembly seat. Left-backed Congress leader Bayron Biswas won from Sagardighi.
Nadia has 52 zilla parishad seats, of which 23 are located in predominantly Muslim areas. Against the backdrop of cases of alleged large-scale corruption being probed by the central agencies, a section of leaders thinks that it would be difficult to gain control of the zilla parishad unless the party wins all 23 seats.
Trinamul appears to be circumspect about many of the remaining 29 seats, which are mostly located in the Matua belt where the BJP still holds sway.
The Trinamul leadership has directed the party’s minority cell to intensify the campaign to ensure wins in the 23 seats to retain control over the zilla parishads.
Minority cell leaders have begun visiting electors at their homes.
“We are reminding people about student scholarships, construction of hostels, setting up of ITIs and polytechnic colleges in minority-concentrated areas, construction of boundary walls for graveyards, construction of community halls, honorariums to imams and muezzins, promotion of Urdu, cycles for girl students of madrasas, vocational and skill development training for unemployed Muslim youths, construction of houses for destitute minority women and others,” said Trinamul’s Nadia minority cell chief Julfikar Ali Khan.
However, some Trinamul leaders in Nadia did not formally acknowledge the Sagardighi result as a key consideration.
“This outreach is not being done because of any anticipated threat after the party’s defeat in Sagardighi. Rather, it is being done to revive the organisation and remind people about the welfare schemes,” said Khan.
Nadia has a minority population of around 25 per cent, with over 50 per cent minority electors in several Assembly segments, particularly under the Krishnagar Lok Sabha constituency.
Among the Assembly segments under Krishnagar, Chapra has a Muslim population of around 70 per cent — the highest in Nadia district — followed by 68 per cent in Palashipara, 65 per cent in Kaliganj, 58 per cent in Nakashipara, 48 per cent in Karimpur, 40 per cent in Tehatta and 38 per cent in Krishnagar South.
Most of the 23 minority-concentrated zilla parishad seats are located in these segments.
A senior Trinamul leader in Calcutta said: “Winning these 23 is very important. We need to accurately feel the pulse of Muslim voters.”
“After the Sagardighi defeat, even the chief minister is concerned. She wants to know why Muslims voted against us, though our party gave so many welfare benefits to the community,” he added.
Mamata formed a committee to assess if the Muslims, who form over 65 per cent of voters in the Assembly seat, were changing allegiances.
“There is no scope for complacence,” said a Trinamul minority leader in Nadia. “The situation in Nadia has been abysmal for a few years because of severe infighting. We managed to win the Krishnagar (Lok Sabha) seat in 2019. We won only eight seats out of 17 in the 2021 Assembly polls. But issues of corruption, the influence of the ISF, the CPM and the BJP’s propaganda, and finally the party’s defeat in Sagardighi dented our confidence.”