Thakurnagar (West Bengal), Feb 2 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met Dalit community All India Matua Mahasangh matriarch Binapani Devi, considered an influential figure among a large section of people in the state.
Modi flew to Thakurnagar, a town about 67 km from Kolkata — close to the border with Bangladesh, in an Indian Air Force (IAF) chopper from the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata.
He prayed at the nat mandir (temple) housed at the Matua Mahasangh headquarters and then spent five minutes with ‘Boroma’ Binapani Devi.
He sought her blessings, amid chants of “Modi-Modi”, “Jai Sri Ram” and “Jai Boroma”.
Modi then addressed a rally organised by the community here.
Santanu Thakur, son of one of the mahasabhapatis of the Mahasangh Manjul Krishna Thakur, and other leaders welcomed the Prime Minister as per Matua tradition with a shawl, garland and a memento.
Wooing the community, Modi began his speech describing the soil of Thakurnagar as “hallowed”.
He also referred to Thakur Guruchand and Harichand, the late principal figures of the sect.
The Prime Minister described Thakurnagar as witness to a social movement founded by Harichand Thakur.
“This movement spread across Bengal and enriched the state. In the country’s social fibre, his efforts for equality and equal rights of the oppressed and downtrodden and mission to unite them is a landmark,” he said.
“I am proud to be with Baro-ma and among the descendents of Harichand Thakur. I offer my respects to all these great personalities of Thakurnagar,” the Prime Minister said.
Matuas are primarily low-caste Hindu refugees from Bangladesh and are considered to be Bengal’s second most influential Scheduled Caste community, with an estimated population of nearly 70 lakh.
The Bongaon Lok Sabha seat comprises more than 50 per cent of Matuas.
However, in the state as a whole, the community commands nearly a crore votes in various southern districts and plays a sizeable role in determining the electoral fortunes in at least 74 of the state’s 294 Assembly seats.
It is almost a ritual for all parties to call on Matua ‘godmother’ Boroma at Thakurnagar and seek her support ahead of every election.
The Matuas have been a big political force behind the Mamata Banarjee-led Trinamool Congress’ win in the 2011 and 2016 Assembly elections in West Bengal.