The BJP in Bengal seemed to suffer a setback on Wednesday after Dulal Bar, state president of the party’s Scheduled Caste Morcha, announced that he was resigning from the post.
Dulal, MLA from Bagda constituency in North 24 Parganas, alleged that the BJP was “arbitrarily giving away tickets” which should have gone to people who have worked for SC communities. The party has denied him the ticket to contest from Bagda this time.
Speaking to Newslaundry, he said, “I feel betrayed for being overlooked as an MLA. I am a two-time MLA from Bagda and, as a president of the state unit of SC Morcha, gave my heart and soul for the party. All my supporters are annoyed with BJP’s top leaders, who are being bought by people with vested interests. I have decided to resign from my post. Though I’ll remain in BJP, I've told Kailash Vijayvargiya and Dilip Ghosh about my decision to quit.”
Dulal blamed BJP MP from Bangaon, Shantanu Thakur, for “using money power to influence the decisions of top party leaders”. “I am also a Matua and I can say he is an opportunist,” he said. “He has entered the electoral arena despite being a spiritual leader, which is against the ethics laid down by the Matua Mahasangha’s founder, the late Harichand Thakur. Not only that, he has promoted the candidature of people who worked against Dalits.”
The Matua Mahasangha has a considerable following in the Namasudra community. Shantanu is the grandson of the recently deceased matriarch of the sect, Matua Barama Binapani Devi.
One of Dulal’s main grievances against the BJP is that despite “using SCs as a shield against attacks from Trinamool Congress goons”, the party has failed to acknowledge their contribution.
“Do you know since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, 90 out of the 130 BJP workers who were killed in political clashes in the state were SCs? Hindus of our class are always targeted first. We have seen chief minister Mamata Banerjee depriving SCs. She announced many welfare schemes for Muslims, allowance for imams, helped Muslims build mosques, but never showed any concern for Dalits. My party is no better,” Dulal claimed. “About 90 percent of the SC population in Bengal is of Bangladeshi-origin. BJP wanted to use grievances of SCs who have suffered persecution from Muslims. The party tried to convince SCs to vote for it saying it wants to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act. They wanted to capitalise on their grievances against Mamata Banerjee.”
Dulal alleged that the BJP was leaning towards “a corrupt group of Matuas led by Shantanu”, creating “unhappiness” among the SC communities. “A large section of Matuas is annoyed at Shantanu, who is a tyrant. Ignoring local BJP leaders, he pleaded for the candidature of his brother Subrata Thakur in Gaighata. BJP top leaders who undermined the winnability factor of hardworking and sincere local BJP men will understand when the results come out,” he said.
To substantiate his allegation of “tyrannical attitude” among the party’s top leadership, Dulal said, “Take the case of Asim Sarkar in Haringhata and Abani Roy in Kalyani assembly constituencies. They have no idea about the areas they were asked to contest from, they are naturally misfits and are going to lose. The former is a known critic of Matuas and the latter is a lawyer who has never worked for SCs. How can BJP give tickets to such persons?”
Why it matters
At present, 10 of the 18 BJP MPs in Bengal are from SC communities, which form 23.51 percent of the state’s population and make up a significant part of the electorate in North and South 24 Parganas, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, South Dinajpur, West Midnapore, Bankura, and Purulia districts.
Another influential SC leader from the BJP, Goutam Hazra, who is general secretary of Amta constituency in Howrah, said there are around 60 SC sub-castes in Bengal.
“Rajbanshis, who account for 18.4 percent of the total SC population, Namasudras at 17.4 percent and the Bagdi at 14.9 percent are major constituents. The Matua community, which has been in the news since 2019, is part of the Namasudra community. Our party depends heavily on SC votes and we want them to vote for the BJP,” he said.
Mostly, it has been people from the SC communities who have sacrificed their lives for the BJP while foiling attacks from the “TMC goons”, Goutam claimed.
“In 2019, Pradeep Mondal, Tapan Mondal and Sukanta Mondal were cut into pieces by Muslim goons. All of them were from backward classes. SCs sacrificed a lot for BJP, which isn’t oblivious of their contribution and we are getting rewarded gradually,” he said, adding that last year, his unit enlisted 2,000 members within three months.
When asked about Dulal’s resignation, Kavita Naskar, an influential member of the SC Morcha, said they can’t afford to lose a leader of his stature. “I believe he’s not going to resign as it will deal a severe blow to the unit which has seen phenomenal success in his tenure,” she said.
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