In a first, Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal has warned against ‘minority extremism’ while speaking to her party workers in Coochbehar. “I am watching that there are some extremists among minorities. They have their base in Hyderabad. Don’t listen to them”, she told her party workers without naming any party. The presumption could be made that she was taking about Asaduddin Owaisi led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
In yet another intriguing move, after meeting the TMC workers, Mamata Banerjee went to the Madan Mohan Temple in Coochbehar to offer her prayers before she went to the Rash Mela on the Rajbari grounds.
Coochbehar as a district has been one of worry for Mamata Banerjee and her party TMC. The Lok Sabha Constituency of Coochbehar since 1951 has either been with the Congress or the All India Forward Bloc. However, during 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, TMC managed to win the Lok Sabha seat. In 2019, however, TMC lost that control with BJP winning the Coochbehar Lok Sabha constituency.
In the Assembly seats, Coochbehar Uttar constituency is won and retained by All India Forward Bloc while the Coochbehar Dakshin constituency saw an All India Forward Bloc win in 2011 and in 2016, saw TMC wrest control.
In any case, the loss of the Coochbehar constituency in Lok Sabha has been considered a big loss for Mamata Banerjee led TMC.
She further said, “I appeal to the Trinamool leaders to close ranks and take up the challenge against BJP. Our activists are the party’s assets. I would ask you not to work for groups under leaders. Work for the flag you hold. There should be an end to Trinamool leaders making comments against each other. The party is not going to swallow the poison they spit. I am happy that Trinamool MLAs, councillors are working together as a team now. The party wouldn’t have lost seats if they did it earlier”.
Interestingly, talking about the Citizenship Amendment Bill too, Mamata Banerjee shifted her focus from talking about Muslims to talking about Bengali Hindus and Gorkhas, calling CAB a farce.
This move by Mamata Banerjee serves two purposes. One is to counter the BJP’s appeal to Hindu voters and second, is an attempt to neutralise the division of her Muslim votebank between TMC and AIMIM.
Days earlier, BJP’s Coochbehar MP Nisith Pramanik came in a grand procession to the temple last Tuesday, performed the puja, spun the Rash Chakra and offered gifts to the temple.
The Bengali Hindu vote has been slipping away from Mamata Banerjee in recent times. One recalls how she faced massive backlash after her opposition to the chants of Jai Shree Ram. At the same time, AIMIM is all set to increase its base in West Bengal.
Recently, the spokesperson of AIMIM had said, “It is true that we are fewer in number, but do not dare touch us. We are atom bombs. Didi, we welcome your friendship and enmity as well. You have to decide whether you consider us friends or foes”.
This speech in Coochbehar by Mamata Banerjee aims to make inroads with the Bengali Hindu and Rajbanshi votebank which has been slipping away from Mamata Banerjee and also send a larger message to Bengali Hindus in West Bengal that TMC is not ‘anti-Hindu’, as was being increasingly obvious with her love for Bangladesh illegal immigrants and her aversion to Hindus.