Bengal elections: TMC to hold critical meeting on Murshidabad strategy, Mamata Banerjee likely to attend

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Kolkata: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is likely to take part in a meeting of senior Trinamool Congress leaders at the party head office on Thursday to discuss the party’s strategy in Murshidabad where the party looks to consolidate Muslim votes.

The TMC is facing its most challenging election in Bengal since coming to power in 2011, and has lost more than 23 leaders and lawmakers to the BJP over the past few months.

Murshidabad, about 200kms north of Kolkata, is the the largest district in West Bengal with 22 Assembly constituencies and has a Muslim population of over 70%. The district has traditionally been a Congress stronghold. In the 2016 assembly elections, Congress won 14 seats, while the TMC and CPI(M) won four each.

TMC’s senior leaders Subrata Bakshi, Partha Chaterjee, Firhad Hakim and the party’s political strategist Prashant Kishor are expected to attend the meeting. Jangipur MLA Jakir Hossain confirmed to ET that all party MLAs and organisation heads from Murshidabad have been summoned to Kolkata for a meeting.

“Abbas Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif is not a factor here, neither is the AIMIM. The Congress-Left can take a few votes, But overall, Muslims are with us,” Hossain said. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the most notable leader of the Congress in the state and a former central minister, is from this area.

The TMC has already begun its outreach here. Recently, the Murshidabad unit of the All India Imam-Muezzin and Social Welfare Organisation held a general meeting in which over 600 clerics discussed the need to elect a “secular and competent” party in Bengal. Senior TMC minister Siddiqullah Chowdhury was present at the meeting.

The entry of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen led by Asaduddin Owaisi and Furfura Sharif cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui’s announcement on starting a new political front – most likely on Thursday – have come as fresh headaches to the Mamata Banerjee government which till now has been accused by the BJP of appeasing Muslims.

“The meeting is also to reach out to conservatives in this area who, as per feedback from the ground, have been showing some interest in moving away from the TMC. We have already started an outreach to show all that the party is doing for the community,” said another TMC MLA, on condition of anonymity.

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