Parties such as the AIMIM and Abbas Siddiqui’s ISF, which were seen as having the potential to deal a blow to the TMC’s minority support base, failed to make an impression in the West Bengal assembly polls as the minorities threw their weight behind Mamata Banerjee in her high-stakes contest against the BJP. According to the trends and results, the Indian Secular Front (ISF), which had stitched an alliance with the Left parties and the Congress, and was contesting on 26 seats, was a dismal showing in the 292 assembly segments that went to polls.
The Asaduddin Owaisi-led party, which contested seven seats in the state polls, also drew a blank, cornering a megre 0.02 per cent vote share. Parties seen having a substantial clout among the Muslims also did not come up with a decisive showing in other states. The Indian Union Muslim League was leading or had won 15 seats in Kerala and its alliance with the United Democratic Front (UDF) was headed for a poll defeat to the ruling Left Democratic Front.
Another party considered having a strong support base among Muslims, the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) fared better, winning or leading on 15 seats out of the over 20 seats it contested. But its alliance with the Congress and other parties failed to stop the BJP from coming back to power. It was the dismal performance of the ISF led by Siddiqui, who is an influential cleric of the shrine of Furfura Sharif, and Owaisi’s AIMIM in West Bengal that has been under spotlight.
Minorities, who comprise nearly 30 per cent of Bengal’s electorate, are a deciding factor in nearly 100 seats of the state. The BJP, which failed to breach the TMC’s minority strongholds, had been hoping that the ISF would be able to split Muslim votes, giving them an advantage, according to analysts.
Since Independence, minorities in the state have voted in favour of the Congress to keep outfits such as the Hindu Mahasabha and the Jan Sangh at bay. During the late sixties, however, they gradually started drifting towards the Left forces, which cemented its base among minorities with ”Operation Barga” — a land-reform movement that benefited lakhs of sharecroppers.
Things fell apart for the Left Front after the Sachar Committee report in 2008 painted a dismal picture of the living conditions of minorities. Add to that, the anti-land acquisition movement in Nandigram and Singur projected the TMC, led by Mamata Banerjee, as their new “saviour”. The Mamata Banerjee camp had been the sole beneficiary of minority votes since the Left Front’s exit in 2011, as Muslims have voted en bloc for the TMC, but its failure to control communal riots over the last six years did not go down well with a section of the community.
However, the community seems to have voted en bloc for the TMC to keep the BJP out, according to observers.