KOLKATA – Representing more than a quarter of its population, Muslims in eastern Indian state of West Bengal are expected to play an important role in the coming elections, with different politicians seeing Muslims support as crucial for any party to rule the state.
“Every government had made promises to Muslims but did nothing concrete for the community,” Mohammed Ali Johar Furqani, general secretary of Tanzim Emma Manajid, told OnIslam.net.
“Muslims have kept an eye on all political parties and would vote for the party which they think is best for them,” he added.
All over India, the Muslim population is large enough to decide the fate of the candidate in dozens of parliamentary seats.
In West Bengal, the Muslims hold key in at least 10 parliamentary constituencies out of 42, where the community’s population is large enough to change the result.
Over the past three decades, the left front led by Communist Party of India (Marxist) received Muslims’ support. The Muslim support was shifted recently to Trinmool Congress, led by Mamta Banerjee.
As the clock ticks towards the launch of 2014 race, Muslims, representing 28% of population, are the most sought after by the political parties in the run up to Lok Sabha (Parliament) elections.
Seeing their crucial role in coming elections, major political parties and their candidates have gone all out to woo Muslims.
“These elections are historic. Even minorities are voting for BJP in the name of Narendra Modi,” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Minorities Cell national secretary Arshad Alam told OnIslam.net.
“People will not vote for BJP but for Narendra Modi,” he added.
He claimed that in the state almost 10-15 percent Muslim voters will support Narendra Modi.
“Not only in West Bengal but all over India different political parties express their love towards Muslims as elections approach. They are treated like a groom but after elections they are forgotten and buried like the dead. Now Muslims are much more cautious,” added Alam.
However, Mohammed Noor-Ur-Rehman Barkat, imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque of Kolkata, denies Alam’s claim.
“Modi is nowhere here in West Bengal. Maybe a handful of Muslims will vote for him, but it is not going to affect the outcome,” he told OnIslam.net.
“Muslims in Bengal have a soft corner towards Mamta Banerjee and her party Trinamool Congress.
“Mamta has opened Aliah University [a state government controlled minority autonomous university in Salt Lake, West Bengal] and has even given government status to Urdu language, which has helped Muslims in getting government jobs,” the Muslim leader added.
Despite their big number, Muslims in West Bengal complain of a many unfulfilled promises from consecutive governments.
“The condition of Muslims has improved, but is still far from satisfactory,” All India Shah Sai Committee national president and former MLA of Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mohammed Asiruddin, told OnIslam.net.
“In Murshidabad district of Bengal, utter poverty forced a woman to sell her son. Now Muslims have understood the importance of education and are making efforts to get a good education.”
He further said, “Madrasas (Muslim schools) are in bad shape in the state. There is no university or colleges for Muslims in the state whereas, in neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh, there are many educational institutes being run by the Muslims.”
Complaining from many unfulfilled promises from the new government, Asiruddin assured that Muslims are very cautious nowadays. They are in a position to decide to whom they should go for their betterment.
“Mamta government has given recognition to Urdu as state language but has not done enough to connect it with employment,” Furqani, the general secretary of Tanzim Emma Manajid, said.
“In metro cities, there are no Urdu medium B Ed (Bachelor of Education) colleges. B Ed degree is necessary for getting government jobs.”
General Secretary of All India Quami Tanzim Mufti, Khalid Azam Haideri, said that in earlier elections Muslims all over India had supported secular parties.
He alleged that during 34 years of left parties’ rule in West Bengal, the condition of Muslims has gone from bad to worse.
There are no records of Waqf properties [properties donated by Muslim persons for charitable purpose for the benefit of the members of the community].
“Muslims are backward in terms of education and in health indicators. We shall support the party with an action plan to improve the condition of the community in these areas," said Anjum Rahat, a local from Kolkata.
She believes that awareness among Muslims is increasing but it will take time to change the present situation.
“Almost all the political parties still favor those belonging to the upper section of the society. Muslims working on senior posts belong to upper class,” Rahat said.
“There is a big difference between precept and practice of political parties. Unless and until politicians get rid of their mentality to treat Muslims as vote bank, their condition will not improve.”
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