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Matua votes in Nadia, North 24 Parganas crucial in next phase

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to Orakandi in Bangladesh, home minister Amit Shah’s address to the Matua community in Bongaon on the Citizenship law and the selection of a candidate from the influential Matua Thakurbari family are careful strategic moves by the BJP to sway Mamata Banerjee’s hold over the Matua vote bank in Bengal.

The Matua population will have a major influence in the poll outcome in the Nadia and North 24 Parganas districts, where voting is scheduled for April 22.

The community, with a population of more than 2.5 crores in the state, has a substantial influence over the assembly constituencies also in several other pockets of North Bengal, including North and South Dinajpur.

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  • The Matuas had migrated to West Bengal from Bangladesh after the partition of Bengal due to religious persecution. Many of them now have Aadhaar and voter ID cards, but BJP leaders say the Citizenship Amendment Act would give them all constitutional rights in India. BJP’s entry into Matua politics started in 2019 with Modi kicking off his Bengal campaign for the Lok Sabha elections after seeking blessings from Boro Maa Binapani Devi – the matriarch of the Matua community who died in mid-2019.

    Matua Mahasangh leader and BJP candidate from Gaighata, Subrata Thakur, told ET: “Narendra Modi’s visit to Orankandi will influence the Matua vote. The PM has paid respect to the Matua community by visiting our holy ‘dham’ in Orakandi. The BJP government has passed the CAA Bill and will implement it. The BJP government has concern for our citizenship.”

    Boro Maa’s grandson, Shantanu Thakur, was fielded by BJP in the Lok Sabha polls from Bongaon. The move has worked well for the BJP, which won the seat for the first time. Shantanu Thakur claimed that the Matuas from the very beginning were inclined towards the BJP and the PM’s visit to their native place, Orakandi, was a huge game-changer.

    Citizenship card

    Permanent Citizenship rights is a long-standing demand of the Matua community. With the BJP promising implementation of the CAA, the community has trust in the party.

    The BJP has promised a development fund for the refugees in its manifesto and implementation of the CAA, while West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has distributed ‘pattas’, or land documents, to the Matuas. “The Matua population in Bengal is above 2.5 crore and 1.25-1.30 crore have voting rights … They are refugees and have come to Bengal following religious persecution. They do not have any documents with them. If you do not have citizenship rights, what is the use of land rights,” Subrata Thakur asked.

    CM Banerjee, who opposes the CAA, insisted on giving land rights to the refugees, including Matuas. Her government has announced distribution of over 1.25 lakh ‘pattas’ to such refugee families. Banerjee has said in public rallies that the Matuas were already citizens of the country and did not need the CAA. Asked about this, Subrata Thakur said: “We want Constitutional rights, which the CAA will ensure. “TMC leader and former Bongaon MP Mamata Bala Thakur could not be reached by ET. Banerjee had nurtured the Matua vote bank since 2009.

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