BJP fielding more Muslims in Bengal

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14% rise in Muslim nominees for civic polls

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may not have nominated any Muslim candidate in the Uttar Pradesh election, but in Bengal the party has adopted a different strategy for the coming municipality elections. It has fielded more than 14% Muslim candidates in the seats it is contesting. Seven municipalities are going to the polls on May 14.

Out of these seven, four are in the hills of the north, while three are in the plains of central and south Bengal. The BJP has not put up any candidate in the four hill municipalities and left all the seats for its alliance partner, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, while contesting in the rest of the civic bodies.

The party is contesting in Raigunj municipality in North Dinajpur and Domkal in Murshidabad district in central Bengal; in south Bengal it is contesting in Pujali Municipality in South 24-Parganas.

In Raigunj, Domkal and Pujali, the BJP has put up 10 Muslims in a total of 70 seats, thus fielding more than 14% Muslim candidates. Minority community candidates figure in seven out of the 20 seats it is contesting in Domkal and three out of 16 in Pujali.

The BJP nominated fewer Muslims in both the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2016 Assembly polls in Bengal. In 2014, the BJP fielded a little over 2% Muslim candidates and in 2016 this was close to 5%.

BJP’s State Minority Cell president Ali Hossain told The Hindu that they are now planning to field more Muslims in the 2018 panchayat polls “compared to Trinamool Congress and Communist party of India-Marxist.”

An extensive study on the Muslim participation in polls by late Prof. Iqbal Ansari of Aligarh Muslim University, later taken forward in Bengal by a senior researcher of Pratichi Institute, Sabir Ahamed, indicates that 46 out of the 294 Assembly constituencies of Bengal have a Muslim “concentration” of more than 50%. The figure is 40-50% in about 16 seats; 30-40 % in 33 seats. The data indicates that in about one-third of the seats the Muslim vote is a factor in Bengal, where the Muslim population is a little over 27%.

The State president of the BJP, Dilip Ghosh, said there is “no change of strategy in fielding more Muslim candidates” in the civic polls.

“In the newly formed Domkal Municipality more than 90% voters are Muslims. In Pujali Municipality also there is a substantial Muslim vote…so we fielded Muslim candidates,” he said. The other reason is a change in the policy of the Muslims “to join the BJP.”

“Earlier Muslims did not join the BJP; but now they are and hence we can field more Muslim candidates,” Mr. Ghosh said.

Source: The Hindu

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