Eye on polls, Shah to meet influential community head in Assam

To woo the Koch-Rajbongshi votes in poll-bound Assam and West Bengal, Union Home Minister Amit Shah would meet ‘Maharaj’ Ananta Rai on Thursday, who claims to be a successor of the erstwhile Koch-Rajbongshi royal dynasty and an influential superior of the community.

Shah would arrive in Guwahati on Thursday and then fly to the Chirang district bordering Bhutan to meet Rai, one of the founders of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples’ Association (GCPA), an apex body of the Koch-Rajbongshi people.

Rai, a 62-year-old socio-religious leader, told IANS over phone that Shah would meet him and his family members on Thursday and have lunch at his home.

According to Rai, the Koch-Rajbongshi community with a total population of around 2.25 crore is categorised as Scheduled Caste in West Bengal and Other Backward Class in Assam. They mostly reside in western Assam and in seven districts of North Bengal, especially in Cooch Behar.

“My discussion with the Union Home Minister would be on socio-economic issues. We are happy that the Central minister is coming to meet us,” Rai said.

Many in the political circles believe that during his visit, Shah would seek the support from Rai and his community in view of the ensuing Assembly polls in Assam and West Bengal due in April-May this year.

Six communities, including Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Chutia, Maran, Matak and Adivasi are demanding Schedule Tribe status.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma are expected to accompany Shah.

Shah had visited Assam on January 23-24 and addressed two rallies in Kokrajhar.