West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched a scathing attack on All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Musalmeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi, saying that she is “watching some extremists among the minorities” which have their “base in Hyderabad”.
“I am watching that there are some extremists among minorities. They have their base in Hyderabad. Don’t listen to them,” Banerjee said while addressing Trinamool Congress workers in Coochbehar on Monday. Coochbehar is a border district in North West Bengal where illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a burning issue. In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP managed to get a good hold in the district.
Although she did not name anyone, her comments drew a quick backlash from the AIMIM chief. “It’s not religious extremism to say that Bengal’s Muslims have one of the worst human development indicators of any minority,” Owaisi wrote on Twitter. He also asked Banerjee to explain how BJP managed to win 18 seats out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.
“If Didi is worried about a bunch of us “from Hyderabad” then she should tell us how BJP won 18/42 LS seats from Bengal,” he questioned.
The AIMIM has sought to expand its footprint outside Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in the last five years. The party won the recently held by-poll to Kishangunj Assembly seat, the assembly segment in Bihar with a high concentration of minorities and borders West Bengal.
While AIMIM is trying to make inroads in Bengal, the direct electoral contest remains between TMC and the BJP. While the TMC won 22 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP made an aggressive penetration in Bengal and won 18 seats.
The state is set to witness by-polls to three Assembly seats in the next three days before heading towards mega municipal elections next year. West Bengal Assembly elections are scheduled in 2021.
The TMC chief’s remarks came after she offered prayers at the Madan Mohan Temple in Coochbehar and then visited the Rash Mela on the Rajbari grounds. Earlier, BJP MP from Coochbehar Nisith Pramanik attended a grand procession to the temple last Tuesday.
Political analysts said her statement on “minority extremism”, combined with her temple visit, indicates that the Bengal CM is desperate to win over the Hindu voters in Coochbehar.