Union Home Minister Amit Shah will on Saturday hold a mega public meeting in Thakurnagar, an area dominated by people belonging to the Matua community, amid their discontent over delay in implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in West Bengal.
Shah will reach Kolkata at around 11 pm on Friday, and on early Saturday, meet with CRPF officers. At 10.50 AM he will visit the ISKON temple in Mayapur in Nadia district to offer his prayers. Then, he will visit Thakurnagar in North 24-Parganas to address a public rally around 3.50 pm.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, refugees, particularly the ‘Matuas’ helped the Bharatiya Janata Party secure nine to 10 seats out of 18 constituencies the party won. The seats then won by the saffron party were Cooch Behar; Alipurduar; Jalpaiguri; Darjeeling; Raiganj; Balurghat; North Malda; Ranaghat; Bongaon; Barrackpore; Hooghly; Jhargram; Midnapore; Purulia; Bankura; Bishnupur; Burdwan-Durgapur; and Asansol.
Out of these seats the community played an important role in Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Raiganj, Balurghat, North Malda, Ranaghat, Bongaon, Burdwan-Durgapur and Asansol. Now, all the seats combined consist of nearly 70 assembly segments and this is the area where BJP is looking to reach the magic figure of 148 seats (out of total 294 elected and 1 nominated) in 2021 Assembly Polls in Bengal.
The refugees, particularly the Matuas, were a major political force behind Mamata Banerjee in the 2011 assembly polls when she ousted the state’s Left Front government after 34 years.
Since then, in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and in the 2016 Assembly election, it’s only with the blessings of Binapani Devi Thakur (an influential Matua leader who died on March 5, 2019) that TMC is ruling the area with the support of Matuas.
However, the winds have changed since the 2019 polls, when BJP managed to snatch the seat from the ruling TMC by playing the card of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Party insiders feel that Amit Shah’s public rally in Thakurnagar is an attempt to appease the community ahead of the crucial Assembly polls scheduled to be held in April-May in the State.
CAA is crucial in Bengal and this was precisely one of the reasons that Prime Minister Narendra Modi - armed with the Citizenship Amendment Bill – kicked off his campaign in Bengal near the ‘Matua’ headquarters at Thakurnagar under Bongaon Lok Sabha constituencies (won by BJP’s Shantanu Thakur) on February 2, 2019.
At the time, Modi had said, “During partition people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan fled amid communal violence. Sikh, Hindu, Christian, Parsis faced utmost atrocities. Now you tell me, after so many years don’t you think they have every right to live with dignity here in India? Therefore, we brought this Citizenship Amendment Bill but I would like to ask Mamata ji’s stand on this. I would like to assure you (Matua community) that our government is with you in this issue.”
As per Nikhil Bharat Bangali Udbastu Samanway Samiti (NBBUSS) – a refugee welfare organisation – there are approximately six crores refugees in India while in West Bengal alone the figure is around three-and-half crores – a key factor for any political parties in the state.
Party leaders of both the TMC and BJP camps feel that refugees card will undeniably be the key factor which could turn the tables in this upcoming elections.
Recently, Shantanu Thakur – the BJP MP from Bengal’s Bongaon and a prominent Matua leader from Thakurnagar – had asked Shah for the Centre to clarify its stand over the implementation of CAA in the state.
Thakur - who won the Bongaon seat while riding the waves of ‘BJP’s citizenship promise’ to the Matua community - has now found himself in an odd situation due to the delay in implementation of the act.
“I personally think that the Union Home Minister should clarify its stand on CAA which is directly connected with the sentiments of the Matua community people. I think it is certainly going to have some impact in the coming polls,” he had said.
Thakur’s reaction came after Amit Shah – during his last visit to Bengal – had said, “The act has been passed. We are committed to implementing it. The entire process got delayed due to the corona pandemic. The rules of the CAA are yet to be framed. I would like to assure all that we will certainly implement it. First, let’s get over with this pandemic and the vaccination process.”
On January 31, Shah will visit Bharat Seva Ashram Sangha at 10.45 am and at around 11 am, he will pay tribute to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in Kolkata.
At 12.45 pm, he will address a rally at Dumurjala in Howrah district and will also lunch with a Bagdi (dalit) family at Khalisani village in the same district.
At 3.20 pm, he will hold a road show from MCD office to SDO office in Uluberia, Howrah.