In an obvious bid to attract followers of the Furfura Sharif, the cleric of which Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui has allied with the INC and the CPM-led Left Front, All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) head and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee allocated Rs 2.60 crore for the development of the popular Muslim shrine, The Indian Express reported, hours before the model of conduct came into effect following the announcement of the assembly election schedule by the Election Commission on Friday.
A West Bengal Finance Department official said, “This fund will be mainly used for 20 high mast and 400 LED street lights and other beautification projects of the shrine. In the 2020-21 financial year, the Finance Department allotted almost Rs 20 crore for at least 60 schemes and the Furfura Sharif Development Authority.”
The move by the Mamata Banerjee government follows her party’s unease with the fact that Siddiqui’s newly floated Indian Secular Front (ISF) erode the AITC’s support base among Muslims. The hardly minority community comprises 30% of the overall state population while Muslims are more than 50% of the populations of some districts.
According to an AITC politician, the ISF can influence at least four or five districts. They include crucial and high-profile constituencies of Hooghly, Howrah and North 24 Parganas.
On 25 February, Siddiqui had announced that the Left Front had agreed to give his party 30 seats. He said the ISF would participate in a rally led by the INC-Left alliance in Kolkata on 28 February.
Another official said the state government had taken the decision after Siddiqui’s uncle and rival Toha Siddiqui met with Mamata Banerjee and Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim at the state secretariat on 25 February. Toha had lashed out at his nephew for announcing the arrangements with the communists, saying he was becoming a “communist rather than a pirzada”.
Toha Siddiqui alleged, “He (Abbas) is facing some serious allegations of corruption, and that is why he is compelled to ally with the CPM and Congress (INC).”
In another electoral decision by the Mamata Banerjee government beating the poll code, the daily wage rate for labourers was hiked. “I am pleased to announce a HIKE in the wages of daily wage workers under WB Urban Employment Scheme: To Rs 202 per day from Rs 144 earlier for unskilled labour, to Rs 303 from Rs 172 earlier for semi-skilled, ?404 for skilled labour (new category introduced),” the chief minister tweeted on Friday.
“A total of 56,500 workers (40,500 unskilled, 8000 semi-skilled, 8000 skilled) will benefit from this. These wages are in parity with rural workers’ enhanced pay (MNREGA unskilled & semi-skilled). Budget provision for this step has been made available for both FY21 & FY22,” Mamata Banerjee said.