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CPM waves 'we hate Bush' flag to woo Muslims in Bengal

CPM waves 'we hate Bush' flag to woo Muslims in Bengal

Author: Bureau
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: June 21, 2008
URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/PoliticsNation/CPM_waves_we_hate_Bush_flag_to_woo_Muslims_in_Bengal/articleshow/3150667.cms

With its West Bengal unit finding to its dismay that it's difficult to court Muslim opinion, the CPM appears to have decided to use its opposition to the Indo-US deal for its Muslim outreach. This is a tested strategy as communalisation of the foreign policy had fetched the CPM liberal electoral dividends in Kerala.

The plan is premised on two assumptions - President Bush represents a politically incorrect view point and that India's engagement with the US is a cause of concern for the community members. The Left has been using disparaging labels against those supporting the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Flashing an aggressive Muslim sensitivity card, the party believes, will help it contain the erosion of support from the community. A steady drop in the Muslim membership in the party over the past seven years and an erosion in the minority community's votes are discomforting signals for the CPM. The party's own report shows a decline in the Muslim membership from 14.9% in 2004 to 14.67% in the state where the minority community forms nearly 25% of the population . The Muslim membership figure stood at 15.2% in 2001.

At present, of the total membership of 3,21,682 in West Bengal, only 47,190 are Muslims. The party has said that the Muslim membership has declined in 20 states, including Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan (where it has dropped by nearly half from 4.4% to 2.74%) and Gujarat.

The CPM, which is jittery about the slide in the Left bastion than losing its clout in Delhi, is not taking any chances. The party is expecting its unbending anti-deal stand to help woo back some of the Muslim voters.

Though statistics are yet to be made available , Left sources said a slice of the Muslim votebase had gone to the Trinamool Congress in the recent panchayat election in West Bengal. The CPM had suffered losses in districts like 24 Paraganas, Malda and North Dinajpur with a high Muslim population.

At a time when the party, which grabbed an all-time high of 8.34% of the vote share during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and a record performance in terms of seats, is faced with the prospect of a drop in its score, the Muslim ire would only add to the Left's gloom. The party's political organisational report finalised at the recent Coimbatore Congress said more efforts needed to be made to recruit Muslims.

The party had anticipated a Muslim backlash in the panchayat polls, but by then it was too late. By the time it began a damage control exercise, the Muslims had started to distance themselves disillusioned with the Left Front in the wake of the Sachar Committee report showing that the Muslims were way down on the social and economic ladder in West Bengal and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's utterances about clearing madrasas.

What made matters worse was the state government's land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram, in which the community was affected severely.

The Muslim population is over 50% in some districts of the state, including Murshidabad and Kishanganj.

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