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How Mamata Banerjee is countering the BJP’s NRC play in Bengal

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on December 03, 2019 Published on December 03, 2019

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a rally against NRC Debasish Bhaduri   -  Debasish Bhaduri

“There will be no NRC (National Register of Citizens) in Bengal,” has been West Bengal Chief Minister and party supremo Mamata Banerjee’s constant refrain since Lok Sabha 2019 polls. And, Banerjee is using the NRC as a single-point agenda to rally support for her party and push back a BJP surge.

Since June, Banerjee has been constantly raising the alarm over the NRC and the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill. This has served two purposes — one, to consolidate the minority (Muslim) vote bank in her favour; and two, to split the Hindu and non-Muslim refugee votes between the BJP and Trinamool. Muslim votes play a determining factor in 130 of the 294 Assembly seats in West Bengal. To add to it, there has been a slew of policy decisions — such as land regularisation for refugee colonies, digital identification cards of citizens and so on — that contain the NRC fear and act as a confidence building measure.

“Mamata Banerjee has used NRC to consolidate Muslim votes and split Hindu votes,” Biswanath Chakraborty, a noted political analyst, told BusinessLine post the by-poll victories for the Trinamool.

Raising the alarm

Banerjee was quite astute on raising the issue of NRC. She initially, took up the omission of Hindu names (particularly, Bengali ones) from the draft NRC in Assam. She then invoked Bengali pride (to build public opinion and whipped up regional sentiments). Later, she raised the pitch and claimed several people had committed suicide in Bengal over the uncertainty caused by NRC.

“Whereas the BJP promised an NRC after the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the ongoing session of Parliament, Trinamool propaganda focused on flaws of the NRC in Assam. It was suggested that the NRC would not only discriminate against Muslims but would end up making Hindu refugees stateless. She equated that the proposed NRC would automatically include all Hindu refugees from Bangladesh,” Swapan Dasgupta, BJP MP, said.

Policy decisions

Banerjee also took policy decision. One such was to regularise all land in the State, where refugees have settled since the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. The State government will provide land titles, thereby granting them legality. State government sources say, 94 refugee colonies have already been regularised, while another 235 will follow suit (covering 200,000 families and an estimated 80-90 lakh population).

Political observers claim that Trinamool lost a huge chunk of Scheduled Caste votes, and support across communities like Rajbanshis and Matuas (a Hindu refugee sect from Bangladesh) in the Lok Sabha polls. The move may now help Banerjee get through the communities, the same chunk that BJP is targeting through NRC.

Published on December 03, 2019
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