World Bulletin / News Desk
Voters in West Bengal began casting their ballots in two by-elections on Saturday in polls seen as crucial indicators of the way the state will vote in 2016.
The elections are also being overshadowed by politicians’ messages about ‘infiltrators’ from across the nearby border in Bangladesh having an undue influence in both constituencies.
Chowringhee, a downtown district of state capital Kolkata, and Bashirhat (South), a rural area close to the border, are where the Bharatiya Janata Party, known by the acronym BJP, and the Trinamool Congress will vie for votes after what has, at times, been a violent campaign.
The BJP won a massive victory in the national election earlier this year and is confident of carrying the by-elections while Trinamool, which unseated the Left Front after 34 years of rule in West Bengal in 2011, is rising to the challenge.
BJP president Amit Shah and vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi have both been campaigning in West Bengal and have expressed the same fears about the ‘Bangladeshi factor.’
These fears are that Bangladeshi infiltrators will cast proxy votes for Trinamool, known as the TMC, in return for their stay in the state remaining undisturbed by authorities.
Addressing a rally in Chowringhee, Shah told supporters that infiltration had “gone up by five times in the TMC regime.”
He also blamed Bangladeshis for rising crime and accused West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of patronizing them.
Naqvi, a prominent ‘Muslim face’ of the Hindu nationalist BJP, told journalists: “We have asked the Election Commission to give special emphasis to the illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators who enjoy Trinamool patronage and vote for it.”
A veteran election manager of the Left Front points out that the BJP might not have so much to fear from infiltrators in Bashirhat.
Despite the large Muslim population that usually votes for the Left, the party won by a margin of more than 30,000 votes in the last parliamentary election.
Also, if there are Bangladeshis voting in the election, a significant number will be Hindu migrants who are likely to be a strong source of support for the BJP.Last Mod: 13 Eylül 2014, 11:32