CAA push gives Matua leader Shantanu Thakur second term in Modi govt

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Kolkata, Jun 9 (PTI) Shantanu Thakur, a second-time BJP MP from West Bengal’s Bangaon Lok Sabha constituency and a leading figure of the backward Matua community in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, was inducted into the Union cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.

Thakur has been a strong advocate of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) since 2019, asserting it would grant "legal citizenship" to members of the Matua community.

He sought to alleviate confusion among the Matuas regarding the submission of applications for citizenship under the CAA, weathering all opposition attacks from the TMC and other parties.

He further claimed that while Aadhaar cards do not grant constitutional citizenship upon the Matuas, the CAA would rectify this.

Thakur consistently highlighted the importance of the CAA, stating that no opposition leaders, including Mamata Banerjee, could safeguard the community in the event of an NRC exercise in the future.

The Matuas, originally from East Pakistan, are a marginalised Hindu community that migrated to India during the Partition and after the creation of Bangladesh due to religious persecution.

Thakur first became a member of the Lok Sabha from Bongaon constituency in 2019.

He had been at odds with family member and rival Matua community leader Mamatabala Thakur, who was elected from the seat in the 2015 byelections, but was defeated by Shantanu in 2019.

Shantanu Thakur, the second son of former West Bengal minister and TMC leader Manjul Krishna Thakur, entered politics in 2015 when he unsuccessfully contested the Bangaon Lok Sabha bypolls from the BJP, finishing third.

The 42-year-old was successful in his second attempt in 2019 and wrested the seat again in 2024.

Appointed as the MoS for Ports, Shipping, and Waterways by Modi in 2021, Thakur told reporters, “Since taking on this responsibility, I have done my best to harness the vast network of navigable waterways and worked towards developing and utilizing the infrastructure and true potential of the ports in the east, including Bengal.” He added, “As a loyal worker of the party, I am ready to fulfill any responsibility entrusted to me to the best of my ability. I am thankful to the BJP and my leader Narendra Modi for everything. I will discharge my responsibilities to the best of my ability.” Despite the BJP's tally decreasing to 12 amid a poor performance by party stalwarts like former Union minister Nisith Pramanik and Dilip Ghosh, who were defeated by their TMC counterparts, Thakur retained his seat with a margin of 73,693 votes.

Despite strong campaigns by the TMC against Thakur, questioning his nationality, the president of the All India Matua Mahasangha received the majority's backing in his constituency. PTI SUS MNB SBN SBN