The violence that has ensued across West Bengal following the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act has shocked the entire nation. Trains are being burnt, public property is being damaged and the state administration appears utterly unwilling to control the raging Muslim mobs. Why is Mamata Banerjee not taking strict measures against the violent Muslim mobs?
One could blame it on Mamata Banerjee’s history of Muslim appeasement but there could be more to the story than that. With the rampant display of violence, Muslim mobs have ensured a massive Hindu consolidation in BJP’s favour. Surely, Mamata Banerjee was aware of the consequence of the overt display of Islamic fundamentalism. Why, then, did she allow it to happen?
The answer, of course, could be the Owaisi factor. In July, it was reported that the AIMIM had announced their decision to contest the Assembly Elections in the state scheduled to be held in 2021. “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,” AIMIM national spokesperson and Bengal observer, Asim Waqar, had stated sometime back.
The AIMIM had also organized a meeting at Dharmatala in Kolkata where the former MLA from Maharashtra Waris Pathan was also present. Consequently, in November, the Chief Minister of Bengal had warned the citizenry about the radicalism of the Owaisis. She did not name them but it was quite obvious who her comments were directed at. “I am watching that there are some extremists among minorities,” she told her party workers in Coochbehar, “They have their base in Hyderabad. Don’t listen to them.”
A week ago, on the 8th of December, AIMIM leader Zameerul Hasan accused the Mamata Government of targeting his party. “Across the state, police officers are abusing our leaders, threatening them not to take up political programmes. This has happened after the Chief Minister indicated to the police to ensure that we don’t hold meetings and processions,” he told IANS. Hasan also announced that the party will organize a mega rally in Kolkata where Asaduddin Owaisi will be the main speaker.
Thus, things are not looking very good for Mamata Banerjee. She has spent too much of her political capital on her Muslim vote bank to be able to win without complete Muslim consolidation in her favour. In the course of the said appeasement, she has alienated significant sections of the Hindu community which have then consolidated in favour of the BJP. This is what we saw happen in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections where the saffron party massively increased its seat tally.
Mamata Banerjee faces a situation where Asaduddin Owaisi is threatening to capture her Muslim vote bank while the Hindus have consolidated behind the BJP due to her continuous Muslim appeasement. Ahead of the enactment of the CAA, there were two choices before the Bengal Chief Minister. The first was to support the Bill which would have resulted in her losing grip on her Muslim vote bank and the second was to oppose it in the belief that her Muslim vote bank will not desert her.
There was no guarantee that Mamata Banerjee would make any political gains by making the first choice. For one, the General Elections results proved that Hindus had already consolidated behind the BJP. And secondly, it was the BJP that had brought the Bill, therefore, the saffron party was the one most likely to make gains.
By going with the second option, she gambled on the one vote bank that had stood by her in 2019 elections and hoped that enough Hindus will stick by her even after her opposition to CAA to ensure her return to power in 2021. She must have taken into consideration the fact that she would have lost a great many Hindu votes but she probably figured it was worth it anyway. She probably also knew that there was no guarantee the Muslim vote bank was going to stick with her but she decided that she had to try. Given the visuals of the Muslim mobs, her political position is in serious jeopardy ahead of the Assembly Elections in the State.
Mamata Banerjee was forced to go soft on the raging Muslim mobs in Bengal following the enactment of the CAA precisely because Owaisi is a massive threat to her Muslim vote bank. To be sure, Owaisi does not need to swing too many votes to cause massive damage to the Trinamool Congress. A vote share of even 3% or 4% is enough to swing the elections decisively in favour of the BJP.
Although it’s still too early to say, the visuals of the Muslim mobs raging across Bengal is likely to consolidate Hindus behind the BJP even more. Mamata’s gamble may well have cost her the 2021 Assembly Elections. Now, she is at a precarious situation where she has massively risked alienating her Hindu vote base but there’s no guarantee that the Muslims are even going to stick with her party.