Express News Service
KOLKATA: Half of BJP’s final tally of 77 seats in the West Bengal Assembly elections came in constituencies reserved for the Dalits. The state has 84 constituencies reserved for SC and ST candidates and the saffron camp won 38 of these.
Among the Dalit seats bagged by the BJP, 18 are located in north Bengal, where the BJP had made deep inroads in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. BJP won 31 seats dominated by the SCs and seven seats dominated by STs.
Many of the seats are dominated by Matuas, a Hindu religious sect comprising those who had migrated from Bangladesh. They were promised citizenship by implementing the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which West Bengal chief minister Manata Banerjee is strongly opposing.
“We won 10 seats among the reserved category where Matuas are a deciding factor. We promised these sections of Hindu refugees citizenship before the 2019 general elections which could not be implemented because of Covid-19. Before this Assembly election, we again made the same promise and Matuas decided to keep their faith in us,” said a senior BJP leader in Bengal.
The Matua-dominated constituencies won by the BJP are Gazole in Malda, Krishnaganj, Ranaghat (South), Ranaghat (North-East), Kalyani and Haninghata in Nadia and Bagda, Bongaon (North), Bongaon (South) and Gaighata in North 24 Parganas.
The saffron camp seems to have managed to retain its Dalit vote-bank in the north Bengal region where the Rajbanshi community forms a considerable chunk of the electorate.
The Dalits, however, in Junglemahal, comprising Purulia, Jhargram, West Midnapore and parts of Bakura districts, rejected the saffron camp. The BJP bagged victory in only three of the 12 Dalit-dominated seats.
“In 2019, we secured a thumping victory in Junglemahal. Dalits supported us en bloc. But in this Assembly election, we received a massive jolt in this region. Electorates in non-reserved seats, too, did not accept the BJP. In the 40 Assembly constituencies, we won in 14 only,” said the BJP leader.
The leader pointed out that the BJP’s CAA narrative proved double-edged.
“Where the Matuas and Rajbanshis supported us on the citizenship issue, the Dalits in the backward region of Junglemahal did not. The TMC’s campaign opposing the CAA managed to win the poor Dalits, who were scared of the citizenship act as most of them do not possess basic documents other than the Epic Card,” he said.