Ahead of 2021 West Bengal polls, Mamata announces monetary help, housing for Hindu priests | India News

KOLKATA: Under frequent attack by opposition parties for “minority appeasement”, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced monthly financial assistance of Rs 1,000 and free housing for over 8,000 Hindu priests of the state, ahead of the assembly election which is likely to be held in April-May next year.
With an eye on the Hindi-speaking electorate and tribal voters spread across the state, she also said that a Hindi Academy and a Dalit Sahitya Academy would be set up by her government.
She made the announcement on the Hindi Diwas, which is observed on this day annually to commemorate the adoption of Hindi as one of the official languages of the country.
Opposition parties described the announcements as “poll gimmicks”.
“We had earlier provided land to the Sanatan Brahmin sect to set up an academy at Kolaghat. Many priests in this sect are financially weak. We have decided to help them by providing them with an allowance of Rs 1,000 per month and also free housing under the state government’s housing scheme,” Mamata Banerjee said.
“I would request all of you not to find any other meaning in this announcement. It is being done to help the Brahmin priests. They will start getting the allowance from next month as it is the Durga Puja season,” the chief minister told a press conference here.
The announcements came within a week of BJP president J P Nadda’s accusation that the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal has an “anti-Hindu” mindset and is pursuing “minority appeasement” policies.
Newly appointed West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has also charged the state government with “appeasing the minorities”.
The TMC had faced criticism after coming to power in 2011 for announcing monthly allowance for Imams. The state government had then said that it would be provided by the Wakf Board of West Bengal.
In a bid to dent the BJP’s support base among the Hindi-speaking people and the tribal areas of the state, the state government also announced the setting up of a Hindi Academy and a Dalit Sahitya Academy.
“We had earlier formed a Hindi Academy after coming to power. Today we have restructured it and have decided to form a new Hindi Academy with former (TMC) Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Gupta as its chairman. We respect all languages and don’t have a linguistic bias,” she said.
Gupta is also the editor of a Hindi daily published from Kolkata.
Banerjee also announced the 25-member board of the Academy.
She also tried to reach out to the tribal electorate of the state, a large section of which voted for the BJP in Jangalmahal area, which comprises the districts of Jhargram, Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia, in the Lok Sabha poll of 2019.
“For the betterment of the languages of tribals, we have decided to form a Dalit Sahitya Academy. Dalits’ languages have influence on the Bengali language,” she said.
The opposition BJP and CPM criticized the state government’s decision of allowance to Hindu priests and setting up of a Hindi Academy claiming that they are “poll gimmicks”.
“What was she doing for all these years? Why didn’t she announce this allowance when similar assistance was announced for Imams? This is nothing but a poll gimmick. And regarding the Hindi Academy, it was the TMC which has called Hindi-speaking people outsiders,” BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said.
West Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said that the announcement reflects the desperation of the TMC government.
“The chief minister has realized that only appeasement of minorities will not work. So, she has decided to give doles to Hindu priests. This is a poll gimmick. She is not interested in the development of either Hindus or Muslims,” Chowdhury claimed.
CPM central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said that such “politics of dole” will further deepen the communal divide in the state.

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