In a development that might upset several political equations in election-bound Bengal, Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui of Hooghly district's Furfura Sharif on Thursday floated a new political outfit, contending that he wishes to be the kingmaker after the polls.
The influential Muslim cleric said his new outfit -- Indian Secular Front -- plans to contest the elections from all 294 assembly seats in the state.
The pirzada also said that a "possible tie-up with the Left-Congress alliance" might be in the offing.
"We have formed this party to ensure that constitutional democracy is protected, everybody gets social justice and all of us live with dignity," Siddiqui, the head of the prominent Sufi mazar, said at the launch of his political outfit at Kolkata Press Club.
The 34-year-old new entrant in West Bengal politics, however, sternly rejected assertions that his outfit would be a B-team of the Bharatiya Janata Party, eating into the vote share of the Trinamool Congress, which largely banks on the state's 30 per cent Muslim electorate during polls.
"Why are you talking about a split in Muslim votes? There are so many more political parties, but you never talk about any split in Hindu votes. If there are some who have problems with my outfit, they should think about what needs to be done. It is not my job to worry about the TMC's poll prospects," Siddiqui told reporters.
He also said that the ISF would put up a concerted fight against the BJP, but declined to brand the saffron party as a "communal force".
Speaking about the possibility of forging an alliance with other secular parties, including the TMC, Siddiqui said it is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's responsibility to bring everyone on the same table.
"It is not my duty; it is her job to bring everyone together to fight against the BJP," he said.
The Sufi shrine head, however, stated that "talks for a possible partnership with the Left-Congress alliance are underway, and that he is optimistic about the outcome".
"The TMC has failed to keep the promises it made to the minorities. Mamata Banerjee had promised a lot of things, but none of them was fulfilled," he claimed.
Earlier this month, supremo Asaduddin Owaisi had met Siddiqui in Hooghly and discussed the likelihood of forming an alliance for the polls, while accusing the TMC of not doing enough to stop the saffron surge in the state.
"Asaduddin Saab has already said that he would support me in this state. The nitty-gritty (of seat-sharing) would be decided later," the pirzada added.
A deciding factor in nearly 100-110 seats in the state, minorities, primarily Muslims, have acted as a bulwark of the TMC against its rivals till 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Political parties in West Bengal are apprehensive that equations in the polarised state are set to witness major changes as the sway of non-BJP parties over minorities, appears to be set for a stiff challenge with the entry of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and the ISF.
Elections to the 294-member Bengal assembly are likely to be held in April-May.