KOLKATA: A West Bengal minister on Friday said the government will "look into" the long-pending demand of monthly allowance for Hindu priests, in a bid to reach out to the community amid the opposition BJP's accusation that the ruling TMC appeases Muslims.
"The Hindu priests are a very big community. They have been deprived for a long time. I have assured them their demand for monthly allowance will be looked into," Trinamool Congress leader and minister Rajib Banerjee said.
"We feel they should also get a monthly allowance as there are hundreds of priests who find it tough to run their families," he told reporters on the sidelines of West Bengal Sanatan Brahmin Sammelan.
The statements are significant, given the BJP, which has made deep inroads in Bengal, has often accused the TMC of indulging in appeasement politics and offering doles to Imams.
Shridhar Shastri, president of the organisation behind the congregation, said Brahmins, who run their family through priesthood, have been a deprived lot in the state.
"We don't have any political affiliation. We just want our demands to be heard. We have been placing our demands for a long time. If TMC won't fulfil it, someone else will. We will support whoever fulfils our demands," Shastri said.
Around 1.83 lakh priests are members of Shahtri's organisation.
It has released a list of 35,000 poor priests who should be given a monthly allowance of Rs 2,000, he said.
Reacting to TMC's promise on allowance, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh asked what took so long for the Mamata Banerjee government to see the "sufferings of Hindu priests".
"The TMC government had announced allowance for Muslim clerics long back. But it did not pay any heed to our demands. Now as they are losing ground they are making these announcements. We will have to see whether they really fulfil these promises or not," he said.
The BJP won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the general election earlier this year, only four behind TMC's 22 seats.
The saffron party has asserted its next target is to unseat the Trinamool from Bengal in 2021.
But the TMC has taken several measures since the general election to turn the tide in its favour.
The priest organisation also demanded that the TMC government take steps to stop sweets shops and groceries firms from printing photographs of gods and goddess on food packets as it is a dishonour towards the Hindu religion.
It also organised a massive rally in Kolkata on Friday.