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CAB expected to set the tone for 2021 Bengal polls

The Bengal BJP has decided to launch a massive awareness campaign across the state on the CAB by conducting workshops and door-to-door campaign.
KOLKATA: The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is all set to determine the course of West Bengal politics in the days to come with the state bracing for a deeper polarisation between TMC and the BJP on communal lines ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls.

The implementation of the CAB is also likely to kick off a new wave of "Hindu appeasement" between the TMC and the BJP to woo voters from the majority community in the polls to 294-member state assembly in 2021.

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the CAB Bill for giving Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha on Monday.

According to the state BJP sources, passage of the Bill in Parliament is expected to further deepen consolidation of Hindu and Muslim votes in favour of the saffron party and the TMC camps respectively.

While the Bengal BJP sees CAB as bonanza for it after the NRC advocacy failed to give it edge, TMC thinks it would "backfire" like the NRC as both of them are attack on "Bengalis and Bengali pride".

The party hopes to further cash on "Bengali sub nationalism" in order to eat into the saffron camp's Hindu vote share.

Hindu refugees are a deciding factor in nearly 80 assembly seats in the state, whereas Muslims constitute a sizeable chunk of voters in around 90 constituencies.

Apart from this, Hindu refugees are also spread in around 40-50 other seats, comprising in between 10 and 15 per cent of the electorate.

"Neither the TMC nor the Left Front have done anything for the refugees in so many decades.It is the BJP that is giving them citizenship. So if there is a political dividend, then it will be the BJP that will get the benefits," West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh told PTI.

According to state BJP sources, the CAB will benefit more than 1.5 crore people across the country,including over 72 lakh in the West Bengal.

Ghosh sounded confident that proper implementation of the new citizenship legislation would take the wind out of TMC's sails, harping on the agenda of "Bengali pride".

"The passage of the CAB in Parliament has unmasked the TMC. TMC's politics of Muslim appeasement has come out in the open.The Matuas, Rajbanshis, Namshudra communities of Bengal need not worry as all of them would get citizenship in days to come and they can live in this country with self respect," BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya told PTI.

Decoding the political implications of the CAB, a senior state BJP leader who did not wish to be named said the Bill would serve dual purpose for the BJP as it would further consolidate Hindus in its favour and blunt the TMC's theory that BJP is an "anti-Bengali" party.

"West Bengal politics from now on will be bipolar,divided between Hindus leaning towards the BJP and Muslims siding with the TMC," the BJP leader said.

The Bengal BJP, which has been at the receiving end post Assam NRC- where 19 lakhs people have been left out, is hopeful that CAB will be a game changer and act as a "political trump card" for the saffron camp.

West Bengal, which shares more than 2,000 km border with Bangladesh, has been a preferred destination of refugees from that country.

The refugees, who play a deciding factor in nearly 80 assembly seats spread across Nadia, Coochbehar, North and South 24 Parganas districts have been a major vote bank which all the political parties have tried to woo.

The BJP made deep inroads in those refugee belts in the 2019 parliamentary polls, but within six months the saffron camp scored a duck in the recent bypolls in three seats, as the publication of NRC in Assam cost them dearly.

Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had opposed both NRC and CAB as "anti Bengali" and had stoked the issue of Bengali pride to corner the BJP in the state. She had said she would never allow CAB to be implemented in the state.

The BJP leadership has said once the CAB was passed in Parliament, it would be applicable in the entire country.

The Bengal BJP has decided to launch a massive awareness campaign across the state on the CAB by conducting workshops and door-to-door campaign.

The Trinamool Congress leadership,which has successfully utilised the saffron camp's "NRC misadventure in Assam" felt that the CAB too would backfire as it would be an attack on the Bengalis as a whole.

"Be it Hindus or Muslims, we are Bengalis first. Now after staying in this country for so many decades, we need to either prove or seek citizenship from the state.We have seen that 14 lakhs Bengalis were omitted from the Assam NRC list. They will get a befitting reply for insulting Bengalis," TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.

A senior TMC leader, who did not wish to be named, said that the issue will be a double-edged sword for the party, as opposing it might alienate the Hindus refugees and supporting it will not go down well with its "loyal minority vote bank".

"After the NRC, we had said that the Centre wants to drive out Bengalis by dubbing them foreigners through the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the CAB. And this campaign had found resonance in the recent bypolls.

"Now once the CAB is implemented, it would start a new race for Hindu votes, with the BJP at an advantageous position" the TMC leader said.
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