KOLKATA: With barely six months left for the crucial West Bengal Assembly elections, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday played a soft-Hindutva card to woo Hindi-speaking voters living in some urban, semi-urban and industrial belts, considered as the BJP’s vote bank, by annoucing monthly stipend for poor Brahmin priests from October and construction of houses for them.
She also announced the revamp of state’s Hindi academy and reconstitution of the TMC’s Hindi cell, lying defunct for years, on the occasion of Hindi Diwas.
The CM’s announcement to help priests financially came days after BJP national president J P Nadda accused her of being anti-Hindu for imposing a lockdown in the state on the day of Ram Mandir’s foundation stone laying ceremony in Ayodhya. The Opposition in Bengal often accuses Banerjee of Muslim appeasement.
“We held four meetings in the recent past. A list of 8,000 poor priests has been prepared who will be given Rs 1,000 each per month. Besides, the state government will construct homes for them under the state’s housing scheme for the poor,’’ she said.
The move to revamp the Hindi academy and reconstitute party’s Hindi cell is said to be an attempt to cause a dent on the saffron party’s vote bank by taking Hindi-speaking voters, 14% of the state’s electorate, into confidence.
The Hindi-speaking voters can be a deciding factor at least 18 to 20 Assembly constituencies in urban and semi-urban parts of the state. “Warm wishes on #HindiDiwas. Bengali is a land of inclusivity and through our persistent efforts we have proudly inculcated Tagore’s values of ‘Unity in Diversity’. GoWB has taken various initiatives to strengthen Hindi Education, Culture and Welfare of the community in Bengal,’’ she tweeted.
The BJP, emerged as the main opposition party by bagging 18 seats of 42 in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, defeated the TMC in the constituencies dominated by Hindi-speaking voters.