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PM Modi Starts Bengal Offensive With Praise For Controversial Citizenship Bill, Asks Mamata to Back It

The BJP hopes that the citizenship bill will yield electoral dividends in Bengal, especially in Thakurnagar, which is the hub of the sizeable Matua community.


Updated:February 2, 2019, 8:02 PM IST

Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday kick started the BJP's campaign in West Bengal for the Lok Sabha elections. In a short address before a packed ground, the PM praised the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, and urged the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government to support it in Rajya Sabha.

The Citizenship Bill has led to widespread protests in northeastern states, with several of BJP’s allies threatening to pull out of coalition governments if it does not withdraw the Bill.

"After Independence, many people stayed where they were. But after being tortured, they left and came back to India. They had to as Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians have nowhere else to go but India. And that's why we are bringing the citizenship law. I urge the Trinamool to support it in parliament. My brothers and sisters here need it," the PM said.

Taking his battle for the Lok Sabha elections to Mamata Banerjee's turf, Modi also accused his political rivals of misleading the distressed farming community through farm loan waivers.

"We have announced measures in our budget that will benefit 12 crore small farmers, 30-40 crore workmen, and three crore middle class people," he said.

Attacking the Congress, he said only those who never took any loan got waivers. Citing the example of a farmer from Madhya Pradesh who only got Rs 13 after he applied for a loan waiver, he said that the cash transfer scheme is much superior as it will be completely transparent.

There was commotion at the rally ground which prompted the PM to cut short his speech barely after 14 minutes.

Before the rally, the PM visited the Matua Thakurbari and sought the blessings of Baro Ma, the current leader of the Matua community and widow of the founder of Matua Mahasangh Harishchandra Thakur.

The BJP hopes that the citizenship bill will yield electoral dividends in Bengal, especially in Thakurnagar, which is the hub of the sizeable Matua community, who originally hail from erstwhile East Pakistan and began migrating to West Bengal at the beginning of the 1950s mostly due to religious persecution. The rally venue was near the house of Matua matriarch Binapani Debi.

Matuas with an estimated population of 30 lakh in West Bengal have influence in at least five Lok Sabha seats in North and South 24 Parganas districts. The BJP state unit was hopeful that PM Modi will speak on the Citizenship (Ammendment) Bill at Thakurnagar in the circumstances, party sources said adding that the BJP-aligned faction of All India Matua Mahasangha is organising the rally.

Modi also held a rally in the industrial town of Durgapur.

The Durgapur rally of the Prime Minister will be part of BJP's 'Ganatantra Bachao' (save democracry) programme in the state. The industrial hub of Durgapur is near the Asansol Lok Sabha constituency held by union minister Babul Supriyo.

The rallies are being held at a time when the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has upped the ante against the BJP-headed government at the Centre and has given the call to oust the PM Modi government in the next General Election. The TMC had on January 19 organised a mega opposition rally which was attended by leaders of 24 parties from across the country, including the Congress.

The TMC had alleged that the CBI was being "misused" by the Centre to harass opposition parties. PM Modi is scheduled to address his third rally on February 8 at Siliguri in north Bengal, one of the areas where BJP had witnessed a surge in its vote share in the last panchayat polls.

West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said apart from Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and many other top leaders will attend several 'Ganatantra Bachao' rallies across the state.

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