Mamata seeks to woo North Bengal's tribal communities

Mamata Banerjee seeks to trump BJP in North Bengal by wooing SC, tribal communities

The TMC was nearly wiped out from the region as the saffron party won seven out of the eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Credit: PTI photo.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to regain control of the North Bengal by wooing the dominant Scheduled Caste and tribal communities of the region.

The TMC was nearly wiped out from the region as the saffron party won seven out of the eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019. The region comprises the districts of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Malda, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Kalimpong and Darjeeling.

Out of the 294 Assembly seats in Bengal, 54 are located in these districts. 

TMC sources said that Mamata is seeking to turn the tables on the BJP in the upcoming Assembly elections in Cooch Behar district by wooing the Rajbanshi community, the largest Scheduled Caste group in the state.

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The community is a crucial factor in determining election results in about 20 Assembly constituencies in North Bengal and is the most important factor in Cooch Behar.

“The chief minister’s key strategy in regaining the support of Rajbanshi’s is development work for the community. She has already set up two development boards for them,” a senior TMC leader said.

As for the Alipurduar district, the TMC insiders said that the party supremo would focus on tribals and the issue of workers of closed tea gardens. “She will seek to corner the BJP over the Centre’s unfulfilled promise of overtaking some closed tea gardens and reopening them,” they said.

The crux of the TMC’s strategy for the Muslim-dominated Malda district would be to prevent a division of minority votes like the one in the last Lok Sabha elections and to ensure that the BJP is unable to consolidate Hindu votes in its favour.

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TMC sources said that with the entry of parties such as the AIMIM and the Indian Secular Front, the party needed to be cautious of keeping its minority vote base intact.

As for the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, Mamata seeks to counter the formidable alliance of the BJP and the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) with the influence of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and its leader Bimal Gurung who had recently snapped ties with the saffron party and pledged support for the TMC.