The Minority Morcha of the West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party has set an ambitious target of inducting 20 lakh Muslims by the end of the year, as part of its efforts to dent the vote share of the ruling Trinamool Congress in the state, ahead of 2021 assembly elections.
According to the Minority Morcha's state president, Ali Hossain, around 4.5 lakh people from the community have already joined the saffron party.
"We have set a target of inducting 20 lakh minorities by December. Of that, four lakh have already been inducted. In the next four months, the target will be achieved," he said.
Muslims constitute 28-30 per cent of the state's total vote share, and play a deciding factor in more than 120 of the 294 assembly segments in the state.
According to Hossain, opposition parties, for several years, have "misguided" the community members about BJP's intentions and generated a "fear psychosis".
"Many intellectuals and educated youths from the minority community have now joined the BJP as they have realised that the party believes in 'development for all'.
"Opposition camps have been misleading the Muslims about the Citizenship Amendment Act. Now people have come to realise that it has nothing to do with their citizenship," he said.
According to sources in the morcha, the saffron party plans to woo around 10 lakh Muslims from 120 minority-dominated assembly constituencies in the state, and the rest
from the remaining 174 segments.
"During this membership drive, we shall focus on the minority-dominated districts of North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Malda and Murshidabad,"
State BJP sources said the party had been trying to woo the minorities for quite some time, but its efforts received a setback following last year's vehement protests over the CAA and the proposed exercise to prepare the National Register of Citizens in Bengal.
"To win elections in West Bengal, it is necessary to secure a section of the minority votes or ensure that the minority votes of the TMC get divided. En bloc minority votes for a particular party can swing the elections.
"Over the last few years, the minorities have got disillusioned with the TMC government and restored their faith on the development agenda of the BJP," a senior saffron party leader said.
The TMC, however, mocked the BJP's "game plan", and said minorities stand firmly behind the Mamata Banerjee-led party, as it is the most "credible secular force" in Bengal.
"The minorities would never trust a communal force like the BJP. The TMC is the most secular force in the state, which has worked relentlessly for the development of all communities," the ruling party's secretary-general, Partha Chatterjee, said.
The BJP, over the last few years, has made deep inroads and emerged as a prime challenger of the ruling TMC in Bengal, by pushing the traditional opposition parties the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Congress to distant third and fourth positions.
The saffron camp reached its all-time high in Bengal politics last year, when it stunned political pundits by bagging 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, four less
than the ruling TMC, and with a staggering vote share of 41 per cent votes.