BJP contemplating to field more Muslim candidates in Bengal

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Kolkata: The BJP in Bengal is contemplating to field “considerable” number of Muslim candidates in the Lok Sabha elections next year with an intent to make inroads into Chief Minster Mamata Banerjee’s solid support base among minorities, and corner a sizeable share of this numerically crucial vote bank.

The saffron party’s aim to make a shift in its political strategy in West Bengal appears to be a result of their harvesting a good number of seats in the local body election early this year by fielding Muslim candidates.

The BJP had fielded more than 850 candidates from the minority community in the poll to the three-tier panchayats, with nearly half of them winning the elections.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had fielded only two minority candidates in the state, which has a total of 42 seats.

However, since the last Lok Sabha polls in the state, Bengal politics has witnessed a paradigm shift with the BJP emerging as the main challenger of the TMC by outsmarting the CPI(M) and the Congress.

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh told PTI, the party will aim to field “considerable” number of Muslim candidates, given the fact that the state has nearly 30 per cent Muslim population.

“Although in our party, tickets are not distributed on the basis of religion, but we are receiving several applications from people of the minority community, expressing their desire to contest elections on our party ticket,” Ghosh said.

There is still time left to decide on the issue of candidates and tickets will be distributed on the basis of eligibility, winnability and capability of an individual, he said.

Ghosh’s views were echoed by party’s Bengal Minority Morcha chief Ali Hossain, who felt Muslims are a deciding factor in the Bengal elections and the party cannot afford to ignore them.

The ruling TMC, however, discounted BJP’s minority outreach plan and asserted that they continue to have faith in party chief Mamata Banerjee.

“The minorities have full faith in us. The BJP’s strategy is nothing but a farce and the minorities are very well aware of their intentions,” senior TMC leader Partha Chatterjee said.

The Congress and the CPI(M) also pooh-poohed the BJP’s Muslim outreach plan saying it was nothing but “shedding crocodile tears” ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.