West Bengal goes to polls in the year 2021, where Mamata Banerjee and her party, TMC, will be challenged by BJP. With several dissenters like Suvendu Adhikari of the TMC preparing to exit the party ahead of the crucial polls, by all accounts, Mamata Banerjee seems to be on weak-footing. Realising the AIMIM, led by Owaisi, has the potential to dent her prospects further, Mamata had attacked Owaisi earlier by claiming that some ‘outsiders’ will threaten and scare voters.
Mamata, taking a dig at Owaisi had claimed that the people of Bengal need to be careful of ‘these outsiders’.
However, unphased by this attack, Owaisi has now reportedly proposed a pre-poll alliance to Mamata Banerjee.
According to reports, Owaisi has told Mamata Banerjee, the current Chief Minister of Bengal, that if she agrees to a pre-poll alliance with Owaisi, he will held her defeat BJP, which is now making massive headway in the state.
Interestingly, emboldened after winning five seats in Seemanchal region, a confident Owaisi announced that his party would contest Bengal assembly polls.
As BJP makes strides in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has reason to be extremely worried about her own prospects, especially, after Owaisi announced his decision to contest the Bengal elections. Essentially, this move by Owaisi could translate into the Muslim votes in the state being divided between TMC and AIMIM, while the Hindus votes would consolidate behind the saffron party, BJP.
The Owaisi conundrum for Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal
In July 2019, 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.”
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.