TMC Pulls Up Surprise By Naming Anti-CAA Activist Oxford Scholar To Take On Congress Bastion In Malda - Vibes Of India

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TMC Pulls Up Surprise By Naming Anti-CAA Activist Oxford Scholar To Take On Congress Bastion In Malda

| Updated: March 12, 2024 11:46

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has fielded a 42-year-old Oxford University scholar Shahnawaz Ali Raihan to take on Congress’s Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury on the Malda seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The brother of former Union Minister ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury, Abu Hasem Khan has held the seat since 2009.

Raihan, a historian pursuing his DPhil at Oxford University’s St Antony’s College since 2018 under the supervision of noted historian Faisal Devji, has been a strong anti-CAA voice and is said to have been a part of the group that protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) in front of the Indian High Commission in London around 2019-’20.

The candidature of Raihan has triggered a war of words between the TMC and the BJP, even as the former journalist said he had always been vociferous against the BJP’s “divisive policies and politics”. “Now I have decided to contest (the Lok Sabha elections) as the BJP has been infusing the politics of division in my home area of Malda. So far, I have been highlighting their divisive agenda through my writings and speeches,” he said.

Raihan is from the Mothabari area of Kaliachak-II block of Malda district and graduated from Calcutta University with a journalism degree and completed his Master’s degree in Mass Communication from Rabindra Bharati University. He pursued higher education at the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, during which he came into contact with the Students Islamic Organisation, the students’ wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. He served as the outfit’s national secretary. Raihan returned to Kolkata after completing his studies in Delhi and worked in various newspapers as a journalist for a few years.

Sources said TMC pursued Raihan for a long time and managed to convince him after much effort. After the TMC unveiled its candidate list on Sunday, Raihan took to social media to thank West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and TMC national general secretary, and the party’s number two, Abhishek Banerjee. “Many thanks to Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee for putting this trust on me. I will try my best to come up to the expectations of the people of Malda Dakshin and Uttar Murshidabad. There is no place for divisive forces here,” he posted.

Malda Dakshin is one of the two seats the Congress won from the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the other being Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from Baharampur. The TMC finished third in the constituency in 2019 behind Abu Hasem and the BJP’s Sreerupa Mitra, underscoring the challenge that awaits the 42-year-old. But the TMC currently controls six of the seven Assembly segments under the constituency while English Bazar is held by Mitra.

Targeting the TMC for nominating Raihan, BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Samik Bhattacharya alleged that the Mamata-led party was “fanning Muslim fanaticism”. “He (Raihan) was with an organisation against whom there were allegations and probe for finding terrorists and separatists in Kashmir. By bringing in such a person as a candidate in Malda, the TMC is trying to fan Muslim fanaticism,” he said.

Responding to the comments, Raihan said, “I love India and have not said anything against my country. The BJP IT cell has been attacking me since my name was declared. They are peddling lies and fake news. Yes, I raised slogans against the BJP and criticised them for their move to bring in CAA and NRC, which the party is using to push people out of the country.”

Raihan, who lives in London with his wife who is a doctor and daughter, said he had been associated not only with the SIO but also with other Muslim organisations. “Is it a crime to be associated with Muslim organisations?” he asked.

The TMC shot back at the BJP, alleging it was resorting to such attacks as it has realised “it is a sinking ship”. The party’s state spokesperson Riju Dutta said, “Shahnawaz Ali Raihan’s academic achievements and commitment to social justice are shining examples. Attempting to smear him only reflects their desperation. Bengal deserves leaders who can handle facts, not fear-mongering. Khela Hobe.”

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