Bangshibadan Barman, who heads a faction of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples’ Association, said on Wednesday that they would support Trinamul, but also added that they wanted statehood for Cooch Behar.
“We respect chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her policies and ideology. We have earlier campaigned for Trinamul and will be with her in the coming days,” Barman told newspersons on the sidelines of a public meeting convened by the GCPA at Raas Mela Ground of Cooch Behar town.
Barman's assertion comes as a boost for Trinamul ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls because the BJP, in its bid to retain its grip on the Rajbanshi-dominated Lok Sabha seats of north Bengal, has recently inducted Ananta Maharaj, who leads another group of GCPA, as the party’s candidate in the Rajya Sabha.
The decision to send Ananta to the Upper House had led to repercussions within the BJP. Even a section of RSS leaders objected to it, underscoring that he was a proponent of statehood.
“Sending Ananta Maharaj to the Rajya Sabha was the BJP’s strategy to woo Rajbanshis. In fact, over the past few weeks, a section of BJP leaders have started saying that they sent two Rajbanshis to Parliament, the other is Nisith Pramanik, the MP of Cooch Behar,” said an observer.
Barman, while expressing confidence in Mamata, was critical of Trinamul leaders of Cooch Behar district.
“Mamata Banerjee is very liberal in politics but her party leaders here indulge in infighting to fulfill their narrow political interests. This is disappointing,” said Barman.
At Raas Mela Ground, Barman and his followers held the meeting to reiterate their demand for a Cooch Behar state.
“As per the merger agreement (of 1949), Cooch Behar should have the status of a ‘D’ category state or a Union territory. However, even today (2023), it is merely a district in north Bengal. We want the central government to adhere to the merger agreement and give due constitutional status to Cooch Behar,” said Barman.
The meeting was held to commemorate the deaths of two GCPA supporters in police firing on September 20, 2005.
On that day, Barman had launched a statehood movement in Cooch Behar, which turned violent. The police had to open fire, which led to the deaths of Barman’s followers Bishadu Barman and Chitta Roy.
A police officer and two constables had also died in the incident.
“For years, BJP leaders had been speaking about our aspirations but have not done anything with regard to the demand (for a state). The Rajbanshis of this region should come together to achieve it,” he said.