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Ahead of elections, Mamata Banerjee’s TMC takes right turn to counter BJP in Bengal

Leaders of the Hindu Samhati, a far right outfit set up by former RSS pracharak, are speaking in favour of the TMC.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2018 23:10 IST
Avijit Ghosal
Avijit Ghosal
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Trinamool Congress,Lok Sabha elections,Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee speaks during an adminstrative meeting at Berhampore Rabindrasadan in Murshidabad on Monday.(PTI Photo)

Ahead of the rural elections this year and the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, Bengal’s ruling party Trinamool Congress (TMC) is busy wooing the majority community by organising conferences of priests in different districts of Bengal to checkmate the BJP.

After stirring up controversy for their pronounced Muslim outreach, Trinamool leaders addressing Hindu priests in open air meetings is a surreal scenario.

Workers and leaders of the Hindu Samhati — a far-right outfit set up in 2008 by former RSS pracharak Tapan Ghosh — are speaking in favour of TMC.

“BJP is of no relevance to Hindus in Bengal. They can’t provide the Hindus with a political solution,” Debtanu Bhattacharya, president, Hindu Samhati, said at a rally on February 14. The outfit is perceived to be against BJP and its ideological mentor, the RSS.

For chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the stakes are high. She wants to have a major role in Delhi after the Lok Sabha elections next year. Bengal has 42 Lok Sabha seats and the TMC wants to win as many as possible.

“If anyone asks you to take lessons of Hindutva from them, don’t listen to them. Don’t surrender your identity to any emperor from Delhi, or anyone carrying the saffron flag,” said TMC district president Ajit Maity at a priests’ rally organised by another Hindu outfit, the Sanatan Brahmin Trust (SBT), in West Midnapore recently.

“You know what constitutes Hindutva. We won’t learn Hindutva from anybody else,” said Birbhum district TMC president Anubrata Mondal at a conference of priests in Bolpur last month.

Birbhum TMC district chief Anubrata Mondal (second from right) with minister Chandra Nath Sinha at a priests’ rally in January. ( HT File Photo )

The SBT has also come out in support of the TMC.

“It may be possible to pay honourarium to priests like imams,” said Dibakar Jana, SBT’s West Bengal advisor at a rally of priests, claiming that the CM had assured allocation of land in Mecheda to build an ashram.

Next month, the SBT will be organising meetings of priests in Bankura, Purulia and Hooghly districts. After the rural polls in May-June this year, the SBT plans to organise a rally of priests at Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata where it will invite the CM as the main speaker.

The TMC’s outreach to Hindu groups, especially Hindu Samhati, has annoyed the BJP.

“Hindu Samhati works with connivance of the state government almost as an arm of the ruling party. While the ruling party denies permission to meetings by the BJP and RSS chief, how can this outfit get permission?” asked Dilip Ghosh, state BJP president. “It’s a strategy to counter BJP’s rise,” he alleged.

“TMC is trying to beat BJP in its own game. But it can’t do everything directly in the fear of losing Muslim votes. Therefore, Hindu Samhati is the outfit carrying out agenda,” remarked CPI (M) politburo member and MP Md Salim.

In a recent Facebook post, the Hindu Samhati president even argued against the perception that TMC is in power because of the Muslim votes.

“A district-wise analysis of Assembly and Lok Sabha elections show Trinamool has fared poorly in the Muslim-majority district of Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur — the places where the Left and the Congress did better, whereas it performed impeccably well in the Hindu-majority districts,” Bhattacharya wrote.

Mamata Banerjee is also lending her own touch to the campaign. Ahead of the Gangasagar mela (the second largest congregation of Hindu pilgrims after Kumbh) last month, she paid her first visit to Kapil Muni’s ashram. She also announced a life insurance policy of Rs 5 lakh each for the pilgrims and said the premium will be paid by her government.

Banerjee has also announced development plans for three of the most popular temples of Bengal — in Tarakeswar, Tarapith and Kalighat.

First Published: Feb 19, 2018 23:09 IST