Not satisfied with its emphatic victory in the April-May West Bengal assembly elections, the Trinamool Congress may be trying to woo the powerful Rajbongshi community of the state that backed the Bharatiya Janata Party in the polls. TMC appears to be courting Ananta Maharaj, a leader of the Greater Cooch Behar People’s Association (GCPA) who has influence among the Rajbongshis, with senior party leader Rabindranath Ghosh recently meeting him for over half an hour. “He is a nice person and I had gone to enquire about his health. Recently he had to go to AIIMS Delhi. There is nothing more to the meeting than this,” Ghosh told News18.
This is the second time that the Trinamool leader met Maharaj within a month. In that period, TMC MLA Jagadish Basunia also held a meeting with the GCPA leader.
Both Trinamool and BJP, however, deny these were political meetings.
TMC chairperson and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee knows the significance of the Rajbongshi vote – a key factor in about 54 assembly segments in North Bengal including Cooch Behar, out of the state’s 294 seats. Nearly 30 per cent of North Bengal voters are Rajbongshis.
Malati Rava, BJP district president of Cooch Behar, told News18, “Ananta Maharaj is not a political person. He was unwell and, therefore, leaders of all political parties are going to visit him. I also pray for his recovery. He will never join politics and he has good terms with our leaders."
During campaigning for the assembly polls, union home minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah had had lunch with Ananta Maharaj in Assam. And the BJP’s North Bengal outreach worked for the party, insiders say.
The TMC did not do well in the Cooch Behar region with Rajbongshi domination, winning 2 seats here, while 7 went to the BJP. The state’s ruling party also had a poor performance in neighbouring areas.
The BJP wants to keep its hold on this region and that is why it made Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik a minister of state for home affairs during a union cabinet reshuffle last month. Analysts say the recent string of meetings suggests the TMC too is keen to wrest the area back.