A day ahead of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s two-day visit to West Bengal — during which he is scheduled to visit a tribal family in Bankura district and a Bangladeshi refugee family from the Matua community in Kolkata — Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reached out to these very two communities with a string of incentives and financial aid.
On Wednesday, the state government granted land rights to 25,000 refugee families and said 1.25 lakh families would eventually stand to benefit.
Mamata also allotted Rs 10 crore to the Matua Development Board and Rs 5 crore to the Namashudra Development Board.
The Matuas, refugees from Bangladesh who belong to the Scheduled Caste, have considerable clout in over 40 Assembly segments. The community had backed the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and now, ahead of the 2021 elections to the state, the BJP has been reassuring the community of the Centre’s commitment to grant them citizenship through the Citizenship Amendment Act.
BJP sources said Shah’s programmes were aimed at winning the trust of the Matuas and tribals, whose support is crucial to winning the 2021 Assembly polls in West Bengal.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had led in 33 of 68 SC Assembly seats, of which 26 are Matua-dominated. The Trinamool led in 34 SC Assembly seats, thus making the contest evenly poised. Similarly, the BJP led in 13 of 16 Scheduled Tribe (ST) Assembly seats in Bengal while the Trinamool led in only three. West Bengal has 294 Assembly seats.
On Wednesday, during a meeting with folk artistes and SC/ST representatives, she handed over the land deeds to the refugees, saying, “No refugee colony in Bengal is illegal. Many have come from other countries like Bangladesh, yet they are citizens of this country. Matua and other minority communities had this complaint that they were not recognised but now we have fulfilled our promise — 25,000 pattas are ready and we will give away 1.25 lakh pattas in all.”
Reaching out to tribals, she said, “Our government has decided that no one can take away the property of tribals. The Government of India asks for 50-70-year-old documents, but we have decided that if you are ST or SC by birth, then you will automatically get the certificate within two weeks.”
Among other benefits, she announced medical assistance under the Swasthya Sathi scheme for SCs and STs.
Amit Shah is scheduled to arrive in Kolkata late Wednesday evening and leave for Bankura the following day, where he will have lunch at the house of BJP worker Bibhishan Hansda in tribal-dominated Chaturdihi village.
Party MP Saumitra Khan, who visited Hansda’s house to monitor the preparations, said, “Amit Shah ji’s visit will send a clear message to the people of Jangalmahal that BJP is with tribal people.”
On Friday, Shah will offer prayers at a Matua temple in New Town in the suburbs of Kolkata, after which he will have lunch at the house of a party worker who belongs to the Matua community.
The TMC and the BJP accused each other of one-upmanship.
State BJP vice-president Raju Banerjee said, “Now when the Centre is making efforts to stand by the SC and ST communities, Mamata Banerjee has jumped in to steal the limelight. What was the state government doing all these years?”
TMC leader and minister Firhad Hakim said: “Our government always thinks and works for all backward sections. In a BJP-ruled state, a Dalit girl is raped and murdered. Amit Shah now wants to go to the homes of Dalits and tribals to get rid of the curse.”
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