BJP gains from polarisation strategy in West Bengal border areas

Kolkata: In an indication that it has benefitted from communal polarisation, the BJP on Thursday came up with a stunning performance in the West Bengal Lok Sabha constituencies close to the India-Bangladesh border which have a substantial minority vote.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which seems to be sweeping North Bengal, where it is leading in all eight constituencies, has left its close rival Trinamool Congress behind in seats like Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Malda North, which share borders with Bangladesh.

In Muslim-majority Malda district, the BJP candidates were ahead in both parliamentary seats. Khagen Murmu was leading in the Malda North, while Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury is now ahead in Malda South. In Ranaghat, another constituency that shares a border with Bangladesh, BJP’s little known Jagananth Sarkar has taken a sizeable lead over his Trinamool rival.

In South Bengal, in the Dalit Matua community-dominated Bongaon Lok Sabha constituency again on the India-Bangladesh border, the BJP candidate and late Matua matriarch Binapani Thakur’s grandson Shantanu Thakur was leading over his aunt and Trinamool Congress candidate and sitting MP Mamata Bala Thakur.

While there are some constituency specific reasons for the BJP’s surge in the border regions, some common causes are a sharp Hindu-Muslim polarisation, the BJP’s highlighting of infiltration from across the border, the party’s promise to come up with an Assam-like National Register for Citizens in Bengal, and its pledge to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill if voted to power again.  These two issues seem to have resonated well with the Hindus in these areas.

Refering to the communal polarisation, Congress leader Shubhankar Sarkar said: “During my campaign in the villages and towns of Bengal I saw a sharp division between the Hindus and the Muslims. The Hundu vote in a large part of the state seems to have gone to the BJP, while the Muslim vote got divided between the Trinamool and the Congress in areas where we are strong”.

Besides, the BJP’s constant harping on the Mamata Banerjee government’s “appeasement policies” – giving allowances to Imams and Muezzins and initiating a plethora of measures for minority welfare – seem to have struck a chord with the Hindu community, who backed the BJP in strong numbers.

A large percentage of the population in Ranaghat are from families of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh, who fled during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The BJP’s campaign that under Banerjee, Bengal was turning into another Pakistan also moved the Hindus in these areas, many of whom had torrid time during the Partition.

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Free Press Journal