Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday accused the BJP of playing the divisive card in north Bengal by engaging “self-styled” leaders to draw votes from Rajbanshis and repeated that both the state government and Trinamul were against any further division of Bengal.
“The BJP is engaging a so-called Kamtapuri leader who is in their pocket to create a divide among Rajbanshis and other communities. A similar attempt is being made to divide the Kurmis and tribals (in south Bengal). We do not want any division of the state and want people of all communities to live together with their rights,” Mamata said virtually at a public meeting in Khoirasole of Birbhum.
It was evident that she meant Jibon Singha, the self-styled chief of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), but she didn’t name him.
In the past 72 hours, Singha, who is believed to be in BJP-ruled Assam, released two video messages, where he batted for the saffron camp and asked people of this region not to vote Trinamul.
“Do not vote Trinamul as the party and Mamatadidi are against our principal demand of separate statehood,” Singha said, while being appreciative of a number of BJP legislators of this region who had backed the statement demand in various forums.
Mamata, in her virtual address, gave more details about the "Kamtapuri leader".
“The Kamtapuri leader is roaming here and there.... delivering lectures and claiming that they will divide Bengal. We have, however, always taken a humanitarian approach regarding his family. After his wife’s death, we ensured that the last rites were conducted in a proper manner. In fact, we have arranged education for their daughters,” said the chief minister.
She was referring to Bharati Das, Singha’s wife, and their daughters. On July 31, 2017, an ambulance from Nepal brought Bharati along with her two daughters to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital.
A resident of Uttar Haldibari village in Alipurduar district, Bharati was missing since 2004. At the NBMCH, the doctors pronounced her dead. They conducted a post-mortem and her body was handed over to the family.
The daughters have been staying with their relatives since then. Both of them study in state-aided schools.
Ever since the July 8 panchayat elections were announced, this was the first time Mamata accused the saffron camp of again playing the statehood card to consolidate the support of the Rajbanshis, who are a majority in districts such as Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri and also have a substantial presence in parts of Alipurduar, North and South Dinajpur districts.
“While the BJP is playing the polarisation card in this region, Trinamul seems to have taken the strategy to rake up the issue and galvanise people's support, considering the strong sentiment that pervades across Bengal against any further division of the state,” said an observer.
Singha, who was reportedly in Myanmar, entered India in February this year to initiate peace talks with the Centre, with some of his cadres. He is believed to be in Assam under the “monitoring” of the central government.
On Sunday, Singha also threatened Parthapratim Roy, Trinamul’s spokesperson in Cooch Behar district, for backing his party’s stand against a separate state.
During her speech, Mamata questioned Singha’s lifestyle, again without naming him.
“He should stay silent and have a good diet. I want to ask how much more money he needs. He often speaks in front of the camera while standing in the jungle, but otherwise, his lifestyle is even more (luxurious) than the royals,” Mamata said.