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30 May 2017

Rajbangshi board, with eye on BJP

Members of the Rajbangshi community celebrate the board’s approval.                      Picture by Biplab Basak
PRANESH SARKAR and AVIJIT SINHA, TT, May 29: The Bengal cabinet today approved the formation of a development board for the Rajbangshi community, a decision that is being seen as an attempt by the Mamata Banerjee government to arrest the growth of the BJP in Cooch Behar.
The West Bengal Rajbangshi Development and Welfare Board is the first of its kind for a community living in the plains in the state. The Trinamul government had earlier created 15 development boards in the Darjeeling hills.
"Today, we took the decision to form the (Rajbangshi) board," the chief minister said at Nabanna this afternoon, almost a month after she promised to do so during a trip to Cooch Behar.
Political observers said the move was an attempt to thwart the rise of the BJP in areas dominated by the Rajbangshis.
"In some of the Rajbangshi-dominated areas of north Bengal, particularly Cooch Behar, the BJP is fast consolidating its base. This became evident when the party finished second in the by-poll to the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat in November," an observer said.
In Cooch Behar and Alipurduar districts, the Rajbangshis form almost half of the population.
Mamata today also announced she would hold four cabinet meetings outside Calcutta every year - two each in the hills and Jungle Mahal - and the first such session would be held in Darjeeling on June 8.
"The two regions are considered among the most underdeveloped areas. If cabinet meetings are held there, it would send a positive message to the local population," said a source.
The chief minister said she would ensure that tourists visiting the hills during the meetings did not face much trouble with accommodation.
"We will ask majority of the ministers and officers to stay in Siliguri. Only five to six senior ministers will stay at Raj Bhavan in Darjeeling and the woman ministers will stay in Kurseong," she said.
The cabinet today also approved the creation of the Changrabandha Development Authority, the third such agency in north Bengal after Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority and Jaigaon Development Authority.

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