THE DECISION The unregulated expansion of the Indian Secular Front (ISF) is among the party’s niggling concerns. Trinamool Congress may have cemented its grip over West Bengal politics with a victory across the three levels of panchayat elections.
Withstanding violence and clashes in its stronghold Bhangar in South 24 Parganas district, as well as in neighbouring districts of North 24 Parganas, Howrah, and others, the Muslim outfit that first emerged in the 2021 Assembly elections managed to win a seat (better than its more established allies Left and Congress).
The State Election Commission still needs to release the final numbers. Still, according to ISF sources, they ran candidates in 1,300+ seats and won “more than 400” in the first panchayat elections they participated in in West Bengal.
The violent battles between party workers from the two parties in Bhangar that started as soon as nominations started were another indicator of the TMC’s anxiety and the ISF’s ascent. Six people had died due to the violence in Bhangar as of Thursday.
The TMC has traditionally viewed Muslims in West Bengal as a reliable support group. It has always prioritized Bhangar, a mostly Muslim neighbourhood 20 kilometres from the Kolkata suburbs of New Town and Rajarhat.
Before the 2021 Assembly elections, Peerzada Abbas Siddiqui, a revered cleric at the Furfura Sharif shrine, announced the ISF to ” give social justice” to Bengal’s Muslims and Dalits.
Aside from the ISF’s continued dominance (headed by Siddiqui, with his young brother Naushad serving as the party’s lone MLA), the Bhangar results again exposed TMC weaknesses in the region.
However, the TMC replaced Mollah in 2021 with Dr. Rezaul Karim, a former CPI(M) leader who had run for Lok Sabha from Birbhum in 2019, setting off protests among Mollah’s supporters. When Naushad Siddiqui of the ISF defeated Karim for the seat, the latter received some sweet justice.