For growth in Ben­gal, BJP turns to Mus­lim nom­i­nees

The Indian Express - - N.E.W.S. - SANTANU CHOWD­HURY

THE BJP is look­ing at Sun­day’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions as yet another op­por­tu­nity for growth in West Ben­gal, where it has con­sis­tently taken sec­ond po­si­tion in re­cent elec­tions. Most re­cently, it pushed the Left Front to third in by­polls to both the Cooch Be­har Lok Sabha seat in Novem­ber 2016 and the Kan­thi Dak­shin assem­bly seat last month.

“We hope to re­peat our re­cent per­for­mance in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity elec­tions,” says BJP na­tional sec­re­tary Rahul Sinha.

The BJP is con­test­ing only the plains mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties — Raiganj, Domkal and Pu­jali — and has left the four hill mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to its al­liance part­ner the Gorkha Jan­mukti Mor­cha. Domkal and Pu­jali have a large Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion and the BJP has fielded 10 Mus­lims in these two mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“In Domkal 96 per cent vot­ers are Mus­lim and seven of our 20 can­di­dates are Mus­lim. In Pu­jali we have fielded three Mus­lims among our 16 can­di­dates,” says the party’s mi­nor­ity cell pres­i­dent, Ali Hos­sain. “Our party has re­ceived huge sup­port from the mi­nor­ity com­mu­nity of late and many were ea­ger to con­test.”

Rima Khatun Bibi, 22, is one of the can­di­dates. “I have al­ways sup­ported the BJP but never got a chance to con­test an elec­tion. When I heard the BJP wanted to field Mus­lim can­di­dates, I read­ily agreed,” she says.

“If the elec­tion is free and fair, the BJP prospects are good here,” says Dilip Ghosh, Ben­gal BJP pres­i­dent.

“With the Left Front and Congress fight­ing to sur­vive, the BJP has a great chance to emerge sec­ond and claim the po­si­tion of main Op­po­si­tion in Ben­gal,” says a BJP leader.

Votes will be counted Wed­nes­day.

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