TMC minister hits out at ISF, says Muslim voters will choose security

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KOLKATA: West Bengal minister Siddiqullah Chowdhury has sought to play down the new political party floated by Furfura Sharif cleric Abbas Siddiqui saying the split in Muslim votes in the upcoming Assembly elections will be “minimal”.

“Muslims of the state know it is the election of their future, of their children’s future. One mistake can cost them a lot. The main issue this time for the community is security and shelter,” Chowdhury told ET.

Abbas Siddiqui, who is a bitter critic of the Mamata Banerjee government, launched the Indian Secular Front this week with support from AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.

The minister also claimed that the situation for the ruling Trinamool Congress was improving from that in 2019 when the BJP netted more than a 40% of the vote share in the Lok Sabha elections.

Chowdhury, who is also the president of the state unit of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, added the TMC has launched a state-wide movement to prevent any attempt to divide minority votes on communal lines. The state’s 30 per cent Muslim votes are crucial as they can influence the outcome in 110 out of 294 assembly seats.

“Nearly 12 per cent of the Muslim vote come from various Imam and madrasa associations across the state. A Muslim today does not even want to think of options, because he knows this is not the time. We are telling them corruption happens everywhere, everybody makes a few mistakes. But we have to look at the future,” he said.

Chowdhury added that a lot of effort is going into Muslim-majority areas like north Dinajpur, Malda and Murshidabad, where the Congress used to have greater traction until recently.

Taking on Siddiqui, he said: “The founders of Furfura Sharif were men of Ibadat(penance) . By bringing in political ambitions, the character of the place is being changed. Even the seniors there are against what Abbas is doing.”

Chowdhury said the entry of AIMIM into Bengal politics “is unfortunate”, and asked why Owaisi went “stealthily” to Siddiqui without talking to other clerics.

Chowdhury, who was in a controversy for blocking vaccine vans during a protest against Centre’s farm laws, defended his action. “Our lands are in danger. I was doing what needed to be done,” he said.

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