By Arun Srivastava


Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his two day visit to Bangladesh certainly strengthened India’s bilateral ties with its neighbour but his programme in Bangladesh also took care of  his party’s compulsions in the assembly polls in Bengal which began on March 27.His visit to the birthplace of the founder of the Matua community who have influence in poll bound districts of Bengal, had his party interests in mind.


Though Modi and his close aide Amit Shah have focussed on consolidating the Hindu vote to oust the ruling Trinamool Congress in Bengal, only a day ahead of Modi’s visit to Bangladesh Amit Shah has struck a jarring note by saying that illegal infiltrators were “eating” up the rights and rations of the people of Bengal. This allegation coming from Shah could not be dismissed in a casual manner. It has certainly a wider implication and was aimed to embarrass the neighbour.


He is citing infiltration from Bangladesh to polarise Hindu votes in Bengal. Addressing a rally in Purulia, he said, “The infiltrators are taking away your income; you don’t get to earn because of the infiltrators. You aren’t getting (your full quota of) rice because the infiltrators are eating it”. What does it imply?  But raising the issue coinciding with the visit unravels new dynamics of the political relation that India intends to maintain with Bangladesh. Shah had earlier called infiltrators “termites”.


This tour of Modi to Bangladesh was important for more than one reason. While the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had invited Modi to be the chief guest on the occasion of 50 years of liberation of the country, Modi has been working on his ambitious plans to use the trip to woo Matua voters, who matter most for him in the elections to the West Bengal assembly.


There is no denying that Bangladeshi people have taken the remarks of Shah as an insult.  They point out that Shah is not even aware of the fact that the situation has changed and the Bangladesh economy has surpassed that of Southeast Asian tigers like Singapore and Malaysia. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Bangladesh’s per capita income in dollars is likely to overtake that of India’s this year. Obviously in this backdrop how could he utter such nonsensical things?


Matuas, who are a part of the namasudra community, have a significant presence in Bengal’s North 24-Parganas and Nadia districts. They can impact the outcome in 32-33 of the total 50 assembly seats (17 in Nadia and in 33 in North 24-Parganas) there. In 2019 Lok Sabha election they  helped BJP in a number of marginal seats.


Though Modi had gone to participate in the Golden jubilee celebration of Bangladesh, his prime intention was to visit and pray at the Matua community’s Shri Shri Harichand temple and the Hari temple of Guruchand at the Orakandi Thakurbari in Gopalganj. Modi will also meet the family members of Harichand Thakur, founder of the Matua community according to Padmanabha Thakur, president of the Bangladesh Matua Maha Mission. He will also visit the Jashoreshwari Kali temple at Ishwaripur.


His desperation to meet Matua leaders was evident in his pre-departure statement that he would interact with the Matua Hindus at Orakandi in Gopalganj during the visit. In this backdrop his remark is quite important; “I am particularly looking forward to my interaction with representatives of the Matua community at Orakandi, from where Sri Sri Harichandra Thakur-ji disseminated his pious message”.


The importance of Modi’s Orakandi visit lies in the fact that the BJP is yet to deliver on its promise of implementing the CAA. A section of the Matua namasudras is impatient because the rules have not been framed…this has left people in the dark on the modalities of getting citizenship through this Act.


Thursday however, witnessed a large protest at the heart of Dhaka led by Jubo Adhikar Parishad, against the visit of Modi. At least four people were killed in the Bangladeshi city of Chittagong after police fired at protesters. Thousands of protesters had gathered outside Dhaka’s Baitul Mokarram mosque after the Friday prayers. Protests held across Bangladesh accused Modi of stoking religious tensions and persecuting Muslims in India. They even slammed Modi for “killing Muslims in Gujarat, Kashmir, Delhi and other parts of India”.


Maulana Mamunul Haque, secretary-general of Hefazat-e-Islam, a political organisation said;“ People are angry with Modi as his government has passed several laws which make Muslims a second-class citizen in India.”


Bangladeshis are also cut up with Modi for his showing of big brotherly attitude. People allege, “Bangladesh has not yet received its fair share of Teesta waters. Our rivers, ports, the Sundarbans are all victims of Indian aggression. India is interfering in internal affairs of Bangladesh politics.” Foez Ullah, president of the Bangladesh Students’ Union, said Modi’s policies go against the basic tenets of Bangladesh’s founding principles.


In poll-bound Bengal almost all the senior BJP leaders from Shah to Rajnath Singh, Union defence minister, are referring to infiltration, which makes it clear the party is keen on using the issue to polarise voters ahead of the Assembly polls. No doubt they are free to raise this issue but they ought to remember that in the wake of Shaheen Bagh movement Bangladesh’s foreign minister had offered to India to take its people back if the Indian government provides concrete proof and evidence. 


Nevertheless the top leaders making such allegations, that too coinciding with the visit of the prime minister to Bangladesh obviously underlines the intensity of the importance of the polls for the party. It also makes it clear that the election is more important to the BJP than the country’s relationship


For BJP defeating Mamata is akin to success of Ashwamedh Agyan.  Modi, Amit Shah and Mohan Bhagwat know that if they manage to trounce Mamata then no one can stop them from conquering India.  The ruling regime and its top leaders are ready to make use of any weapon including the visit to Bangladesh to achieve their ends. (IPA Service)

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