GUWAHATI: Eyeing the elections in both Assam and West Bengal where Koch Rajbonghi population spread across the two states works as a major factor, Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah met Ananta Rai, the ‘Maharaj’ of Koch-Rajbongshi who heads a faction of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples’ Association (GCPA) in Chirang district in lower Assam.
The Koch-Rajbongshis comprise a sizeable chunk of voters in western Assam and northern West Bengal. After meeting Rai, Shah flew to Cooch Behar to address a public rally also. He flagged off West Bengal BJP’s fourth Poribortan Yatra from Cooch Behar.
After an hour long discussion over cup of tea and pitha (traditional cake), Rai, who claims to be a descendant of the Cooch Behar royal family in Bengal and presently residing in Assam’s Chirang district informed media persons that the Union home minister has discussed on several the long-pending demands of Rajbongshi community.
“Goods days are coming soon for Rajbonghi community people. The home minister assured that all the pending demands will be addressed shortly,” Rai said without disclosing much.
In Assam, Koch-Rajbongshis along with five other communities in Assam has long been demanding the scheduled caste status. If claims by the leaders from these communities are to be believed, the state has 6.9 million Koch Rajbongshis.
Spread across Assam, Rajbonghshis can influence votes in around 28 Assembly constituencies out of 126.
Rai added that he has a support base of around 18 lakh members who have been already supporting the NDA. Rai’s faction of GCPA has been advocating a separate state or territory for Koch Rajbongshi in West Bengal.
The Koch ‘Maharaja’ often claimed that Cooch Behar was illegally included in West Bengal and inclusion was against the treaty signed by Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan, on August 28, 1949, with the government of India. GCPA bestowed upon Rai the title of Maharaja in 1998.
With more than 30 per cent vote share in north Bengal, the Rajbongshis are a crucial factor in the region. The community helped the BJP make massive inroads in north Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts, Rajbongshis could be a deciding factor in more than 15 Assembly seats.
He said that he had invited the Union minister to his residence during one of his trips to Delhi.