New Delhi: With the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act in place and keeping an eye on the 2021 assembly polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in West Bengal is looking at a two-pronged ground strategy to reach out to the Hindu community in the state.
This includes setting up special counters to facilitate granting citizenship to Hindu refugees and relying on the numerically-influential Matua community as a way to polarise voters.
The BJP will first organise rallies to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for pushing the citizenship legislation — in Kolkata on 23 December and in Siliguri on 24 December.
A senior state BJP leader told ThePrint that after the “thanksgiving” programme the party will set up counters at the mandal and booth levels to collect the necessary documents from non-citizens.
“We will ensure the refugees aren’t hassled by government employees,” the leader said.
The Matua factor
The BJP is banking on the Matua community for further polarisation of the state’s electorate. The Matuas are the largest Scheduled Caste community in Bengal, and the largest beneficiaries of the new citizenship law. They are mostly refugees from Bangladesh who came to live in India.
The community forms 17 per cent of the population of Bengal, and is largely based in the North and South 24 Parganas districts, Nadia, Cooch Behar and certain pockets of Malda. There are nearly one crore Matua voters in the state, who are influential in 60-70 assembly seats.
Jagannath Sarkar, the BJP MP from Ranaghat in Nadia district and a member of the Matua community, told ThePrint: “Before the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, PM Modi visited a Matua community temple and promised that the community’s demand for citizenship will be fulfilled. Even Amit Shah met a Matua delegation and promised citizenship, and that’s why the community voted for the BJP in large numbers.”
Bengal BJP trains guns on Mamata
Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee took part in a huge protest rally Monday, and announced that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens would be implemented in the state over her “dead body”.
However, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh blamed her for playing vote bank politics.
“We had demanded for a long time that citizenship be given to those Hindu people who came here in different circumstances over the last two or three decades. But Mamata Banerjee is only concerned about the Muslim vote bank; she is spreading fear among them,” Ghosh told ThePrint.
Ghosh blamed Banerjee for instigating vandals. “This is the first case where a state government is instigating vandals to set fire to government property. Why is Mamata not taking action against the infiltrators who have vandalised 15 railway stations, local trains and buses? She is speaking against this Act, but what about Hindu refugees?” he said.
Sayantan Basu, general secretary of the Bengal BJP, added: “West Bengal will be the first state where this Act will be implemented. How can the state government refuse to implement a central law? Mamata is only addressing her constituency. She fears that her political bastion is getting eroded.”