West Bengal Assembly elections | ISF fields candidates from across religions, castes

Of the 21 candidates the ISF has so far announced as part of its share of seats in the alliance with the Left Front and the Congress, 10 are either Hindu or belong to Adivasi communities, while the rest are Muslims.

The Indian Secular Front (ISF), led by Furfura Sharif’s influential cleric Abbas Siddiqui, has fielded candidates cutting across religions and castes for the West Bengal Assembly elections, in a bid to prove its secular credentials.

The BJP and the Trinamool Congress have accused the newly floated political outfit of being a party playing the minority card. Of the 21 candidates the ISF has so far announced as part of its share of seats in the alliance with the Left Front and the Congress, 10 are either Hindu or belong to Adivasi communities, while the rest are Muslims.

Simul Soren, president of the ISF, said the party represents the interests of the Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

The BJP and the TMC alleged that the Left Front and the Congress have shed their secular credentials by entering into an alliance with the party floated by the 34-year-old cleric of Muslim shrine Furfura Sharif in Hooghly district.

Denying that the ISF is a communal party, a CPI(M) leader said, “The Siddiqui-led outfit has pledged to fight for the rights of the backward and downtrodden people of the society.” He asserted that his newly floated political outfit will prove to be the ‘kingmaker’ in the State which roughly has 30% Muslim voters.

Mr. Siddiqui had rejected as baseless the accusation that he has entered the electoral arena to cut into the TMC’s Muslim vote base, assiduously nurtured by Mamata Banerjee.

“In the last 10 year, the TMC government has only fooled the Muslims and Dalits. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has done nothing for them,” Mr. Siddiqui had told PTI in a recent interview.

“We are not here only to seek Muslim votes but also backward community votes,” the ISF boss said.

Mr. Soren is contesting from Haripal, while the party has fielded Milan Mandi, Bikram Chatterjee, Gauranga Das, Sanchay Sarkar and Anup Mandal among the Hindu and Adivasi candidates.

Sirajuddin Gaji, Sheikh Sabbir, Faisal Khan Abbasuddin Khan, Pirzada B Amin and Md Mostaquim are among the 11 ISF candidates from the Muslim community.

The party has fielded Mr. Siddiqui’s younger brother Naushad Siddiqui from Bhangar constituency in South 24 Parganas district.

The Left Front has given the ISF 30 seats from its kitty, while the Congress has agreed to offer it seven constituencies from which the grand old party fought in the 2016 elections.

Polls to the 294 Assembly seats in West Bengal will be held between March 27 and April 29. Votes will be counted on May 2.

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