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Amid CAA Protests, Mamata Reactivates ‘Refugee Cell’ as it Eyes BJP’s 30% Increased Vote Share in Bengal

In February, Mamata Banerjee will address a three-lecture series on CAA in the Nadia district, which is dominated by Matua community and other Hindu refugees from Bangladesh and where the BJP managed to increase its vote share in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Sujit Nath | News18.com

Updated:January 25, 2020, 3:34 PM IST
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Amid CAA Protests, Mamata Reactivates ‘Refugee Cell’ as it Eyes BJP’s 30% Increased Vote Share in Bengal
File photo of West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee.

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, who has been at the forefront of the party’s statewide campaign against the CAA, NRC and NPR, on Friday reactivated TMC’s refugee cell and appointed Mukul Chandra Bairagya as its convenor. Bairagya is the working president of the All India Namasudra Vikash Parishad, an organisation of several backward communities.

“Bairagya has been appointed to intensify our campaign in refugee dominated areas. The BJP is misleading the refugees and we thought this needs to be corrected. He was asked to arrange block-level meetings and discussions to make refugees aware of the ill-effects of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR),” said Trinamool Secretary General, Partha Chatterjee.

Banerjee, who has been opposing the contentious citizenship Act vehemently, is left with no other options but to tap nearly 30 per cent increased vote share of the BJP, which shifted allegiance mainly from Left Front, Congress and refugee community in the last three years.

Out of nearly 6.5 crore voters in Bengal, two crore are refugees and a large number belongs to the Matua community and issues related to citizenship have been a long pending demand of theirs.

Matuas were the deciding factor during the Left rule till Banerjee came to power in 2011. She knows that any significant division in the Matua vote share – a deciding factor in nearly 90 Assembly segments out of 294 seats in the state – could shatter her ambitions of acing the 2021 assembly polls.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and in the 2016 assembly elections, it’s only with the nod of influential Matua leader Binapani Devi Thakur (who died on March 5, 2019) that the TMC ruled the area with the support of Matuas.

However, the things changed during in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when the BJP managed to snatch the Bongaon seat from the ruling TMC by playing the card of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which now has become an ‘Act’.

It was Amit Shah’s strategy and it worked well as the BJP made a successful inroad in the Matua community. Presently, BJP’s position in nearly 100-105 assembly segments in Bengal is stronger than the TMC support base.

It was considering these factors that Banerjee decided to reactivate her party’s refugee cell.

In February, the TMC chief will address a three-lecture series on CAA in the Nadia district, which is dominated by Matua community and other Hindu refugees from Bangladesh and where the BJP managed to increase its vote share in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The refugee campaign will start from February 5 and will end on February 13. Party workers and leaders have been asked to form human chains in all the blocks and to organise silent processions with colourful banners.

Senior party leaders at the block level have been asked to visit all Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe dominated villages for one-to-one interaction on February 8 and 9.

However, Rahul Sinha, BJP national secretary, insisted that people will not fall for TMC’s tactics. “No refugee cell of the TMC is going to work here in Bengal. The refugees are well aware that they were cheated by the ruling TMC and its only BJP who can give them back their dignity. The refugees are with the BJP and it was evident in the last Lok Sabha poll results in Bengal,” Sinha said.

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