Shantanu Thakur sworn in as junior minister, Matuas remind CAA priority
Celebrations at Thakurnagar, the headquarters of the Matua sect in North 24-Parganas, started on Wednesday right after the chief of the sect and local BJP MP Shantanu Thakur took oath as junior minister, but despite the revelries continuing on Thursday, many in the community said that their demand for citizenship was their first priority.
“The Centre may have given a ministerial berth (to Thakur) to appease the community fearing the inordinate delay in implementation of the Citizenship Act, but it (the gesture) will boomerang if the government fails to act on its promise (implementing the Act) with which it wooed us,” Manoj Das, a Matua devotee, said.
“Much before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the community will send a clear message to BJP,” he added.
In the 2021 Assembly polls, the BJP won six of the seven Assembly seats in the Bongaon parliamentary constituency dominated by the Matuas despite the Trinamul wave in North 24-Parganas. The sect is also influential in the Nadia and North Dinajpur districts.
Some Matuas demanded that the All India Matua Mahasangha, headed by Thakur, must re-launch the movement with their core issue of implementing the CAA once the Covid-19 curbs ease.
A source at the Mahasangha said before the polls the conflict over the delay in CAA implementation was such that Thakur himself had thought of quitting BJP and floating his own party.
“The Union home minister (Amit Shah) had cancelled at least two public meetings here at Thakurnagar ahead of the Assembly polls. We believe he was avoiding us because we would raise questions about the CAA. The pressure from the community was such that even Thakur was forced to say in multiple Mahasangha meetings that if the BJP doesn’t keep its promise the community leaders will fight the Assembly polls independently,” the source said.
“Hence Thakur must not forget his primary focus now that he is a minister,” this person added.
Another section in the Mahasangha said though there is undercurrent of discontent with the BJP, Thakur’s elevation may create the perfect opportunity to up the ante on their CAA demand.
“Citizenship is our core issue and we will continue our movement to achieve it. We are not against the BJP. Rather, we feel since it is the party at the Centre, with its support we can solve the citizenship problem,” a source close to Thakur said.
BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh, speaking on the issue said: “The Matuas must be happy that their leader is a Union minister today. He will now be in close proximity with the Prime Minister and home minister and raise their demand at the top-most level personally. The state government here is not cooperating on the CAA’s implementation.”
Former Trinamul MP Mamatabala Thakur, who also represents the Matua community, however is not optimistic about Shantanu Thakurs’ ascension to the cabinet.
"As an MP Shantanu has done nothing during the past two years. The ministerial berth will only be beneficial to him and his family... The community members will soon realise that both BJP and Shantanu Thakur had made false promises...” Mamatabala Thakur said.