PM Narendra Modi on Friday reached Dhaka with the ‘mission’ to garner electoral support.

While the election in West Bengal is a do-or-die battle for the BJP, PM Narendra Modi on Friday reached Dhaka with the ‘mission’ to garner electoral support, which is crucial to wipe out Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress.

It may sound surprising to a lot of people in India as to how people in Bangladesh would help the BJP to win state assembly elections in West Bengal.

Modi, on Saturday, is scheduled to visit the Matua community’s Shri Shri Harichand Temple and the Hari Temple of Guruchand at Orakandi under Kashiani upazila in Gopalganj, 200 kilometres south-west of Dhaka.

At Orakandi, the PM will spend time with the family members of Harichand Thakur, founder of the Matua community.

Matua Mahasangha is a religious reformation movement that originated, around 1860 in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), and the followers are Namasudras, a Scheduled Caste group.

Harichand Thakur was born in 1812 at Orakandi, is the founder of Matua Mahasangha. After India’s independence, a large group of Matua followers migrated to West Bengal, and there are about three crore Matua population in the state.

The Matua ‘vote bank’ is crucial to swing elections in 30 assembly seats and has a significant impact on another 50 constituencies in West Bengal. And the support is crucial for the BJP to wipe out Trinamool Congress.

West Bengal will go to polls for 294 seats in 8 phases from March 27, and the last phase is on April 29, making it the longest ever polls in the state. Counting of votes will be held on May 2.

In the past, Matua electorates have been supporting the Trinamool Congress, and pradhan sebayat Matua Mahasangha, Manjul Krishna Thakur was a minister in West Bengal.

But, with the emergence of BJP as the primary opposition to the ruling Trinamool Congress, a group of Matua followers and office bearers have joined the saffron party.

The BJP has been trying to make the Matua community understand that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed in December 2019 primarily to grant citizenship to a large number of ‘stateless’ people of the community.

A large chunk of the community who had migrated to West Bengal between 2001-2002 because of the anti-Hindu crusade during the Khaleda Zia government, is yet to get citizenship.

For the BJP, the Matua community has started to emerge as a secured ‘vote bank’ during elections in West Bengal. And this is not the first time that PM Modi is reaching out to them.

In February 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha election, PM Modi had visited Thakurnagar in North 24 Paraganas to meet Matua matriarch Binapani Devi, also known as Boroma, a fourth-generation descendant of the sect’s founder Harichand Thakur.

During the visit to Thakurnagar, Modi had sought blessings of Boroma, and had touched her feet. Her grandson, Shantanu Thakur, contested on a BJP ticket against his aunt Mamata Bala (of Trinamool Congress) and had won from Bangaon constituency with a huge margin.

The visit to Orakandi on Saturday is crucial for PM Modi because the BJP is now caught on the back-foot with the Matua community. It has failed to grant citizenship to the stateless people of the community, a promise it had made before the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Fifteen months after the passage of the CAA in parliament, the NDA government has failed in framing rules, and implementing the law.

Speaking at a rally on February 11 at Thakurnagar, Union home minister Amit Shah had said implementation of CAA was kept in abeyance because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He promised that CAA will be implemented after COVID vaccination.

Taking advantage of the invitation to attend the Golden Jubilee celebration of Bangladesh’s independence and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, PM Modi on Saturday will try to appease the Matua community with the visit to Orakandi.

For Modi’s visit, four helipads were constructed at four different locations – two close to the Orakandi Thakurbari, and the other two a little far from the religious sight.

Anirban Roy

Anirban Roy is Editor-in-Chief of Northeast Now. He can be reached at: editor@nenow.in