Jangipur : , April 22 (IANS) Mafuja Khatun proudly avers she is the "only Muslim woman in the BJP's list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls". The former two-time CPI-M lawmaker claims her switch from left to right has been "smooth" and rubbishes all talks of the BJP being anti-Muslim, saying the voters from the minority communities would back the saffron party in the ongoing elections.
Now a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Khatun who once repeatedly branded the saffron party as "communal", finds Modi's pet slogan "Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas" progressive and without any tinge of communalism.
"Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas" is a progressive and appealing slogan and not a communal one. I have been campaigning about Modiji's progressive schemes ranging from skill development to women's empowerment, which have proved their usefulness in finding better livelihood for the youth as well as poor men and women irrespective of their community," she told IANS.
The 48-year-old BJP candidate hailed the Modi government's initiative to liberate Muslim women from the evil of instant triple talaq (divorce), though it has not been a major issue during the polls in the Muslim-dominated Jangipur constituency.
"It was a praiseworthy initiative to provide a safeguard to Muslim women though it has not been a major issue in Jangipur as well as in West Bengal as the victims of this evil practice are negligible here," she told IANS.
Khatun was elected MLA from Kumanganj Assembly constituency twice (in 2001 and 2006) on Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) ticket from neighbouring South Dinajpur district and joined the BJP in 2017 after losing the 2016 Assembly elections to the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Though she did not reveal her reasons for leaving the CPI-M, she said that the "transition from left pole to right" had been "smooth as both are cadre-based parties" and she was enjoying the challenge that her new party threw at her.
"I am BJP's only Muslim woman candidate for the Lok Sabha elections. I believe lotus will bloom in Jangipur as the people are fed up of the Congress and the Left parties who ruled the state for 34 years and the misrule of the TMC government."
She feels Muslims in the country "will back the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)" as it focuses only on social and economic development of the poor, irrespective of communities.
However, she is sceptic about the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in West Bengal, which has been a major poll issue this time. "It is a complex issue. Let it come first," she says.
Khatun believes that Jangipur's electorate, including the minority voters, will bless her as the incumbent Congress MP and former President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee "failed to carry out any development work" amid obstacles created by the TMC-led administration in Murshidabad district.
Describing herself as a "grassroots" activist, she said that the voters of Jangipur had realised that only a "bold, hard working and experienced" Parliamentary representative could address problems like the erosion in the Ganga and the plight of the bidi workers.
"I have been trying to reach out to over 16 lakh voters living in the seven Assembly constituencies, 84 gram panchayats and one municipality under the Jangipur Lok Sabha seat. Wherever I campaign, I find they want a grassroots MP and the political wind is blowing here in favour of the BJP," she said during her campaign covering the length and breadth of the constituency, braving the oppressive heat and humidity.
Khatun accused outgoing Congress MP Mukherjee Jr. of not leveraging "his identity" to get through development projects.
"Unlike me, who started her political carrier in 1987 with student politics and came up fighting all along, Mukherjee came to politics holding his father's hand. He had the opportunity to leverage his identity to seek more funds and do more for Jangipur. But he failed. Did he ever meet the PM seeking funds for local development, we don't know."
Describing the Congress as her "principal Opposition" over TMC nominee Khallilur Rahaman, Khatun slammed Mukherjee alleging "he lacks vision".
Khatun is more than 100 per cent confident of victory even though BJP's Samrat Ghosh in 2014 ranked fourth securing not even one lakh votes.
Notwithstanding TMC's all-out attempt for its maiden Lok sabha seat win in Murshidabad district, Khatun is convinced the party would not be able to fulfil its dream.
"Democratic rights of the people and democracy at large have been strangled here by the ruling Trinamool. People were not only denied their voting rights in last year's panchayat elections, but many of our candidates were physically beaten up to deter them from filing nominations," she told IANS.
She also slammed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her comments that the RSS has been backing Congress candidate Abhijit Mukherjee.
"She is telling lies and misleading people. She is playing the communal card to consolidate the votes of Muslims or threaten people who either support the Congress or CPI-M. Her efforts will go in vain," Khatun said.