BJP IN BENgAL WOOINg THE MATuA COMMuNITY
The community forms 17.74% of the population and can influence votes.
With an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to woo the Matua community of Bengal that constitutes some 17.74% of the population and is concentrated in the North 24 Parganas district.
Recently, Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP state observer, addressed a huge rally organised by the Matua community in North 24 Parganas district, indicating that this community, which has a stronghold in the area, would be crucial for the party during the 2019 elections.
A senior BJP state functionary from Bengal told this correspondent, “The Matua community is a very strong and well connected community in this region (North 24 Parganas) of Bengal and they can influence the voting pattern in the region. They are angry with the present dispensation in the state and are looking for an alternative, and BJP is going to provide them the alternative.”
According to BJP sources in Bengal, the state unit of the BJP is also in touch with the leader of the community, “Boroma”, who resides in Thakurnagar, the headquarters of the Matua community. Thakurnagar comes in the Bongaon Lok Sabha constituency, and this seat is currently held by the TMC.
A BJP source said: “The party is in touch with Boroma; she is the one who is at the helm of affairs for this community and we are in talks with her for her support for the party. Her support for the party and that of her community would be very crucial, given that BJP is targeting 22 seats in the state for the Lok Sabha polls.”
The Matua community, which belongs to the Scheduled Castes, was tradi- tionally a vote bank of the CPM for a very long time. Then, Mamata Banerjee tried to sway the community towards her and made Manjulkrishna Thakur her Cabinet minister in the Bengal government. Banerjee had made Manjulkrishna’s brother Kapilkrishna Thakur a Member of Parliament from the Bongaon Lok Sabha seat, following which “Boroma” had made Mamata Banerjee the chief patron of the Matua Mahasabha.
However, currently the chief family member of the Matua community is in a feud, with some of the family members from the community, going the way of Mamata Banerjee, while some the BJP’s way.
According to some Matua community leaders, they are neither happy with the present Trinamool Congress government nor are they satisfied with the BJP government at the Centre.
A Matua leader, who did not wish to be named, told this correspondent, “The TMC had promised a whole lot of things for us, but nothing has materialised. We were an oppressed class and we still remain the same. Only some are happy with Mamata Banerjee because their close ones have been made MPs and ministers in the Bengal government.”
Some also voiced their concerns about the National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) that the BJP has been talking of launching in Bengal if they come to power.
Primarily, this community of Scheduled Castes had come over to India from the erstwhile East Pakistan and settled in the bordering districts of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas.
Another Matua leader said: “We had migrated from Bangladesh to India due to the oppression we faced there and now if the NRC happens in Bengal, many would not have any ID cards since most of us are daily labourers and belong to poor families.”
The Matua community also held a protest against the NRC in Bengal earlier when the first draft of the NRC was released.
Kailash Vijayvargiya addresses a rally organised by the Matua community in North 24 Parganas district.