Mamata Banerjee Largesse For Matuas, Key Scheduled Caste Community In Bengal, Ahead Of 2019

Mamata Banerjee's largesse to the Matua community underscores an undeniable factor in the 2019 polls -- the importance of the caste factor.

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Mamata Banerjee Largesse For Matuas, Key Scheduled Caste CommunityIn Bengal, Ahead Of 2019

Mamata Banerjee wooed the Matuas away from the Left since the 2008 panchayat polls


Kolkata: 

A new university is to come up at Chandipara, about 85 km north of Kolkata, and it will be called the Harichand Guruchand Thakur University. This was announced by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas. She flew in there in a helicopter today to celebrate the 100th birthday of Binapani Thakur, the head of the Hindu scheduled caste sect called the Matuas.

An 8.8 acre plot of land has been identified just a few kilometres from Thakurnagar for the university. The land has been transferred from the irrigation department to the education department already. "The university will make the Matua community famous across the world," Ms Banerjee said.

That's not all. Ms Banerjee awarded Binapani Thakur a state honour called the Biswa Banga Samman and announced the beautification of the area around the Matua's landmark temple.  

Mamata Banerjee's largesse to the Matua community underscores an undeniable factor in the 2019 polls -- the importance of the caste factor. 

Matuas are influential voters in 74 Assembly seats in eight districts in West Bengal. There are contrary claims about the exact size of their population, but Matuas number half the scheduled caste Namasudra population of Bengal which, according to the 2011 census, is about 34 lakh. 

Mamata Banerjee wooed them away from the Left since the 2008 panchayat polls where the Trinamool got its first state of electoral success. She continued to woo them today, too. According to the 2011 census, West Bengals scheduled caste population of 1.84 crore is a crucial vote bank. 

Opposition parties accuse Mamata Banerjee of divisive vote bank politics. "Mamata Banerjee first divided Bengal along religious lines into Hindus and Muslims. And now she is dividing Hindus into tiny factions," said Samik Bhattacharya, a former BJP legislator, adding, "Trinamool is even dividing the Matuas." 

Mukul Roy, the former Trinamool lawmaker who has now joined the BJP, is believed to have some influence over a Matua faction and Mamata Banerjee's largesse may be a step to counter that. A few weeks ago, a mobile phone conversation went into circulation in social media between Mr Roy and BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya where the subject was how to cash in on the divide in the Matua community.

The Matuas are Hindu refugees who fled Bangladesh around Partition. They had formed a religious reformation movement at Faridpur called Matua Mahasangh. The revolt was started by Harichand Thakur at Orakandi in the late 1800s. His son Guruchand took the baton forward. His grandson Pramatha Ranjan established the sect's headquarters at Thakurnagar.



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