West Bengal’s Left Front woos Muslims, women

Sunday, February 13, 2011

KOLKATA - Faced with arguably its toughest political test in the coming assembly polls, West Bengal’s ruling Left Front Sunday wooed two crucial segments of voters - Muslims and women - during a rally held here to kick off its campaign.

With the day marking the centenary of famed Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the Left Front leaders made full use of the occasion to woo the state’s largest minority group - which comprises about 25 percent of the state’s population.

Copies of a portrait of the poet made by noted artist Wasim Kapur were distributed at the rally, with top Left Front leaders, including Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and the combine’s chairman Biman Bose holding aloft placards carrying the portrait.

Faiz, whose verses still continue to inspire people, was born Feb 13, 1911 and was influenced by communist beliefs.

Mohammed Salim, a prominent Muslim face of the front’s major player Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), said Faiz’s verses were carried by the demonstrators in Egypt’s Tahrir Square protests which forced the country’s president Hosni Mubarak to step down.

He also recited parts of some of his poems that spoke of the struggles of the toiling masses.

CPI-M state secretariat member Mohammad Amin, also addressed the gathering in Urdu. The state has a substantial number of Urdu-speaking Muslims.

The Muslim vote bank of the front has been considerably dented over the past five years.

The anti-land acquisition campaign spearheaded by the opposition parties alienated a large number of Muslim electorate from the ruling combine.

The publication of the Justice (retired) Rajinder Sachar report on the social, economic and educational status of Muslims that revealed the community’s backwardness in the state had also angered the minority group.

But what was more significant, for the first time at a Left Front meeting at the Brigade Parade ground, the CPI-M put forward one of its women leaders as a speaker.

Shyamali Gupta, president of the state unit of the CPI-M women’s wing Paschim Banga Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti, made a brief speech exhorting women to support the Left Front in the coming polls.

Attacking main opposition Trinamool Congress, the chief minister called upon the women to vote for the front in protest against the lawlessness the anti-government forces were trying to foment.

“The sort of atrocities they are committing, the violence will reach your doorsteps soon. Vote for us to stop their atrocities,” said the chief minister.

Women constitute nearly half of the state’s population. The Trinamool is also led by a woman - Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee - whose popularity graph has risen in recent years.

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