How Mamata is trying to win over majority community

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI file photo

A significant change in the electoral strategy of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is taking place following the rise of BJP in the state. Two recent decisions of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo have indicated that instead of relying heavily on her minority support base she is also trying to cater to the sentiments of the majority community. The TMC government has recently hiked the aid to Durga Puja Committees from Rs. 10,000 to Rs 28,000 and has declared to build a replica of Puri’s Jagannath Temple in East Medinipur district.

The Chief Minister’s doles to about 28,000 Durga Puja Committees is significant as earlier she was targeted by BJP for putting certain restrictions on immersion of Durga idols as it coincided with Muharram. Her latest move is clearly aimed at blunting BJP’s “anti-Hindu” charge against her. The TMC government has also announced 25% concession in power tariff to puja committees who source power from the West Bengal State Electricity Board and the Calcutta and the Calcutta Electricity Supply Corporation.

Banerjee has also made it clear that she will leave no stones unturned to corner BJP with the issue of alleged Income Tax notices to several Durga Puja committees inn the state. Although the Income Tax Department(IT) has denied issuing any IT notices to puja committees TMC Banga Janani Committee has staged an eight hour long agitation a couple of weeks back against the alleged IT notices.

The TMC supremo is keen on capitalising on the issue to label BJP as a party of the Hindi heartland who are trying to impose an alien culture on Bengal.

“Basically the Chief Minister is trying to utilise the Durga Puja issue to label BJP both as ‘anti-Hindu’ and ‘anti-Bengali’ “ a senior TMC leader said. Her decision to build a replica of Puri’s Jaganath Temple in East Medinipur district is also aimed at the same objective.

The TMC government had announced in May that priests working at crematoriums run by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) will get honorariums. Recently the state’s Backward Classes Welfare Minister Rajib Banerjee had said that the state government will consider monthly honorariums for priests.

It remains to be seen whether Banerjee’s or BJP’s strategy to win over the majority community in Bengal pays dividend in the next Assembly elections in 2021.

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