Matua community leaders upset with West Bengal BJP

Union Minister exits BJP WhatsApp groups

From the individual defections after the 2021 Assembly election debacle, the West Bengal unit of the BJP at the start of 2022 is grappling with the discontent of leaders from the Matua community. Earlier this week, Union Minister and Bangaon MP Shantanu Thakur quit a number of WhatsApp groups of the State BJP, triggering speculation of rift among the party.

“I am getting this feeling that those who are at the helm of affairs of the West Bengal BJP do not require me or the support of the Matua community,” Mr. Thakur said.

The leaders of the Matua community, including Mr. Thakur who heads the Matua Mahasangha, have been demanding representation of leaders from the community in the committees of the State BJP.

After taking over as the State BJP president, Sukanta Majumdar set up new committees at the State and district level. On Tuesday, four MLAs from the Matua community from North 24 Parganas and Nadia held a meeting at the Bongaon residence of Mr. Thakur.

“We want to hold on to our vote bank…We are for the good of the BJP so that we can do well in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls,” Ashok Kirtania , BJP MLA from Bongaon Uttar, said after the meeting.

The Matua MLAs said there demands include changes in the BJP organisation in the Matua-dominated areas.

The BJP central leadership has also reached out to Mr. Thakur, who was assigned the portfolio of the Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways in the reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers last year. BJP president J.P. Nadda made a phone call to Mr. Thakur and wanted to know the reason for the differences.

Wooed by the PM

During the 2021 Assembly polls, the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a lot of efforts to win the support of the community. On March 27, 2021, the day when the first phase of polling was held in West Bengal, the Prime Minister was visiting a temple at Orakandi in Bangladesh and paid obeisance to Harichand Thakur, the founder of the Matua sect. During the run-up for the Assembly polls, BJP leadership raised the issues of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and promised citizenship to Matuas who constituted one-fifth of the State’s Scheduled Caste population.

It was because of the aggressive wooing of the Matua vote bank that the BJP, which could not do well in south Bengal, won about five seats in areas with high population of the voters from the community.

Political observers say unlike the past defections, the development on this occasion is a matter of a serious concern. Mr. Majumdar had described these developments as “internal issue of the party” and expressed hope that these will be sorted out with “discussions within the party”.

The TMC leadership has not spared the opportunity to fish in the troubled waters. Party leader and Minister Jyotipriya Mullick said Matua leaders are welcome to join the TMC and be part of the State’s development.

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