Kolkata: Besides winning the confidence of a section the ‘Matua community’, the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) has managed to capitalise on the Left Front’s vote share which helped its Bangaon nominee Shantanu Thakur elbow Trinamool Congress’ heavyweight candidate Mamata Thakur out this Lok Sabha election.
Speaking to News18, Mamata Thakur said, “In Bangaon, the entire Left vote went to the BJP and that led to my defeat. Shantanu Thakur defeated me by nearly 96,000 votes. I welcome this decision of the people and will continue to work for the party in future.”
Located nearly 70km from Kolkata, Thakurnagar in North 24-Parganas district, is the headquarters of the ‘Matua Mahasangha’, a religious reformation movement that was led by the late Harichand Thakur. In this part of Bengal, it’s not Mamata, but ‘Matuas’ call the shots.
Thakurnagar is named after Harichand’s great-grandson, late Pramath Ranjan Thakur, and falls under the Bangaon Lok Sabha constituency where Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a gathering on February 2, 2019.
With nearly 65-67 per cent Matua voters, Bangaon is one of the 42 seats in Bengal which the BJP was desperate to grab (to reach its target of 23) by winning over the late Thakur matriarch Binapani Devi Thakur, popularly known as ‘Boroma’ (elder mother).
Shantanu Thakur said, “In Bangaon, people are very sentimental about their rights. In the last panchayat election, the Trinamool Congress prevented people from casting their votes. There was anger among them and this went in favour of the BJP.”
Boroma, the widow of Pramath Ranjan Thakur, had a huge sway over the Namashudra (Dalit) community, which migrated in large numbers from Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, after Partition.
She passed away a few weeks after Modi met her in Thakurnagar.
The community was a key force behind Mamata Banerjee’s triumph over the 34-year-old Left-Front government in the 2011 assembly election.
Since then, the Trinamool Congress has had Boroma’s blessings — both during the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2016 Assembly elections.
However, this time, the shift of the Left vote and rift among Matuas created a favourable situation for the saffron party.
Kapil Thakur, an analyst, said, “The BJP leaders managed to convince that it’s only they who can give the Matuas the identity of an Indian. For the last 72 years, the Matua community has been deprived. Though they have voting rights, according to the proposed citizenship bill, they are not Indians. In August, 2018, they met the Prime Minister in Delhi and he assured them of full cooperation. This is the reason why Matuas supported the BJP this time in Bangaon.”
When asked to explain further, he said, “In 2003, according to the amendment in the citizenship bill, those who entered India without any migration documents after July 19, 1948 were termed as ‘illegal immigrants’. Now a majority of the Matuas falls under this category and if the National register of Citizens (NRC) is implemented here like Assam, then they would have to leave India or would be lodged in detention centres. The BJP created an atmosphere of fear among them in the name of NRC and also assured them that they need not worry as there was the citizenship amendment bill. The saffron camp asked for Matua votes and in return, assured them of fulfilling their long-pending demand for nationality.”