Anwar Pasha Murshid Ahmed, the ‘main’ AIMIM leader from West Bengal, joins the Trinamool Congress, asks Owaisi not to come to Bengal

Published : Nov 24, 2020 08:05 IST

Anwar Pasha Murshid Ahmed (centre, in white shirt, holding aloft the Trinamool flag) joining the Trinamool Congress in the presence of Bratya Basu (to his right), West Bengal Information and Technology Minister.

Anwar Pasha Murshid Ahmed (centre, in white shirt, holding aloft the Trinamool flag) joining the Trinamool Congress in the presence of Bratya Basu (to his right), West Bengal Information and Technology Minister.

Weeks after the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) caused a sensation by winning five seats in the Assembly elections in Bihar, the West Bengal unit of the party suffered a setback with several prominent leaders joining the ruling Trinamool Congress. With the AIMIM poised to contest in the upcoming Assembly elections in West Bengal, this development has come as a relief of sorts to the Trinamool, which can ill-afford a division in its minority support base.

Anwar Pasha Murshid Ahmed, a prominent AIMIM leader from West Bengal, joined the Trinamool Congress along with several of his followers in the presence of Ministers Bratya Basu and Malay Ghatak on November 23. Bratya Basu introduced Ahmed as the “main leader” of the AIMIM in West Bengal and one on whom the State outfit of the AIMIM was dependent. Addressing the media, Ahmed said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could win in Bihar Assembly elections because of the AIMIM’s divisive politics and that that was something to be avoided in the 2021 elections in West Bengal.

Ahmed said: “I appeal to all my Muslim brothers to support Mamata Banerjee to strengthen the hands of that force that can stop the saffron party, and save Bengal.... I appeal to Asaduddin Owaisi [AIMIM chief] to not come to Bengal. Bengal has no need of you at present. But still if you come, then we are ready to stop you.” He said the country has “never seen a secular leader like Mamata Banerjee”.

The AIMIM leadership, however, dismissed Trinamool’s claims regarding the importance of Ahmed in the party. Speaking to Frontline, Syed Asim Waqar, the national spokesperson of AIMIM, said: “The person who has joined Trinamool has been termed the most influential leader from our party in Bengal. Our party has lakhs of workers and leader, and he is just one from among them. For the past one year, this man has not been in touch with us. He was just sitting at home and not doing anything. We had not involved him in any of our political work either.”

Waqar claimed that the “so-called AIMIM workers” who had joined Trinamool with Ahmed were actually “Trinamool workers pretending to be disgruntled AIMIM workers and hardly any of them were associated with the AIMIM in any way”. Taking a swipe at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Waqar said: “The Chief Minister has enough resources and should know who in her State is powerful and influential and who is not. If she does not have that basic information then such a Chief Minister should not govern the State.”

With the BJP gearing up to give a stiff challenge to the Trinamool Congress in the 2021 Assembly elections, a split in the non-BJP votes, particularly Muslim votes (Muslims account for more than 27 per cent of the population in the State), could spell trouble for the ruling party. AIMIM supremo Asaduddin Owaisi has declared that his party will be contesting the Assembly elections in Bengal. This is not good news for the Trinamool , whose government is facing a strong anti-incumbency sentiment, allegations of corruption at the grassroots level, and vicious and violent infighting.

Owaisi has been alleging that Mamata Banerjee’s government has done little to improve the lot of Muslims in West Bengal. On the other hand, the Trinamool has also been desperate to win back the Hindu votes it has lost to the BJP on account of its alleged “minority appeasement policies”. On the day that Ahmed and other members of the AIMIM joined Trinamool, Mamata Banerjee announced that she will be doubling the recently promised honorarium to Hindu priests.


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