Ahead of the assembly elections, West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress has formed separate cells for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities. The party plans to form another unit for the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to wrest power from TMC after emerging as the state’s second-biggest in the 2019 national polls, has separate units for these communities. The TMC had only such unit but that too remained virtually defunct till the party thought of reviving it after the Lok Sabha elections.
“While the SC and ST cells have been already formed, the OBC cell would be formed soon with active and aware leaders of the communities so that they do not remain as defunct cells but set up proper mechanisms to highlight the demands and grievances of the communities,” said a TMC leader, who did not want to be named.
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The TMC’s tally of Lok Sabha seats declined in the state from 34 to 22 in the 2019 polls. The BJP’s rose from two to 18 thanks to its growing support among the three communities.
“…the BJP has gained from the community-specific work of [its parent organisation] the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Of Bengal’s 84 seats reserved for the SC and ST communities, the BJP was leading in 46 seats, while TMC was ahead of others in 37 [in 2019],” said a TMC legislator.
RSS works especially among these communities through organisations such as Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Shree Hari Satsang Samiti, and Sewa Bharati. Bengal BJP’s refugee cell and RSS’ Bastuhara Sahayata Samiti has been active among Hindu migrants from Bangladesh.
“The TMC’s three cells would aim to give special focus to all the communities giving fair representation to the leaders of these communities. Special attention would be given to communities such as the Rajbongshi, Matua, and Namashudra who might have felt unheard when there was one just one umbrella [body],” said another TMC leader.
BJP leaders, including Union home minister Amit Shah and national president JP Nadda, have been visiting these communities during their visits to the poll-bound state. They have had lunches with members of these communities.
Backward classes account for one-third of Bengal’s population of 90.3 million, according to the 2011 census. About 23.5% of the state’s population belongs to SC communities and 5.8% to STs. About 7% of the state’s population is of OBCs, according to state government data.
BJP leader Samil Bhattacharya said the TMC has been unmasked and is trying to fool the people by taking some cosmetic measures. “All these communities have made up their minds. The TMC is nearing its end.”