BJP MLA who met CM Banerjee accuses MP of pressuring Shah on CAA
- Shah has announced that the Centre will enforce the citizenship law once Covid-19 vaccination is over and the pandemic ends.
Biswajit Das, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator who met West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in her chamber at the state assembly on February 8, stoking speculations on his return to his old party, on Friday accused BJP Lok Sabha MP Shantanu Thakur of misleading the Dalit Matua community, which the latter belongs to, about the new citizenship law.
Das also accused Thakur of "blackmailing the BJP" on the citizenship issue.
The MLA made the statements at a press conference, a day after Union home minister Amit Shah announced during his visit to North 24 Parganas district’s Thakurnagar, the headquarters of the Matua community, that the Centre will enforce the citizenship law once Covid-19 vaccination across the country is over and the pandemic ends.
The Centre is in the process of framing laws for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act which the Parliament passed last year. It offers citizenship to non-Muslims who entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 2015. CM Banerjee figures among the law’s staunch critics who insist that it is discriminatory and unconstitutional as it leaves out Muslims and links citizenship to faith in a secular country.
“Shantanu Thakur is misleading the Matua community and pressuring the BJP leadership to enforce the new law as early as possible. Why this rush? The Matuas are simple people. This is unfair. Thakur is mobilising them for his political goal. He is blackmailing the party,” Das, who represents the Bongaon North assembly constituency in North 24 Parganas, said.
Thakur is the Bongaon Lok Sabha MP and one of the heads of the Matua Mahasangha.
“His statement clearly shows who is blackmailing whom. I did not introduce the CAA. It was done by the Union home minister and his ministry. Das has insulted Shah as well with such remarks. He possibly wants to return to the TMC. It was the Matua Mahasangha that decided who would address Thursday’s rally. If I tried to stop him from attending the event how could he appear on the dais?” Thakur told the media.
The BJP wrested the Bongaon Lok Sabha seat in 2019 by fielding Thakur against his aunt and then sitting TMC MP Mamata Bala Thakur. There has been a split in Matua votes since then. Although the BJP won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats, Hindu backward class voters are now crucial for the saffron camp. The Matuas are a part of the three million strong Hindu Namasudra (Dalit) community that can influence poll results in around 80 of the state’s 294 assembly seats. The BJP aims to win at least 200.
The Matuas, who support Thakur, have demanded immediate implementation of the citizenship law since these people came to West Bengal as refugees from East Pakistan in 1947 and after the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War to escape religious persecution.
There is resentment among a section of Bengal BJP leaders over the manner in which the rally Shah addressed was organised by the Matua community. There was no BJP flag at the venue and many BJP leaders, including Das, were not given the opportunity to address the crowd. Only the triangular yellow flags of the community were seen at the event.
Seeking support of the Matuas in the coming polls, Shah also announced sops which he said would be delivered if the BJP comes to power in Bengal.
“Some people are disgruntled because they were not allowed to speak and there were no BJP flags at the event. But one has to understand that it was organised by the Matuas and not our party. They invited Shah and some leaders. Das is not leaving the BJP. People are leaving the TMC and not joining it,” said BJP Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh while making an effort to play down the wrangling.