Guwahati, Feb 11: With eye on assembly polls in Assam and West Bengal, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday met influential Koch-Rajbongshi leader 'Maharaj' Ananta Rai and spent about an hour at his home in western Assam's Chirang district bordering Bhutan.
Shah arrived in Guwahati early on Thursday from Delhi by a special flight and flew to Chirang along with Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to meet met Rai, one of the founders of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples' Association (GCPA), an apex body of the Koch-Rajbongshi people.
The Koch-Rajbongshi people are living in Assam and West Bengal and claim to have over 18.5 lakh voters in the two states.
"Good days are ahead for the Koch Rajbongshi people. We are happy that the central minister came to meet us," Rai told the media after his meeting with Shah, who later flew to Guwahati enroute to West Bengal, where he attend several election related events, including "Poribortan Yatra" in Cooch Behar.
Rai without detailing his discussion with the Home Minister said: "We have discussed many socio-economic issues. We are with the NDA (National Democratic alliance)."
Assam Bharatiya Janata Party President Ranjeet Kumar Dass and Cooch Behar BJP MP Nisith Pramanik were also present in the meeting between Shah and Rai.
Rai claims to be a successor of the erstwhile Koch-Rajbongshi royal dynasty and an influential superior of the community.
The 62-year-old leader told IANS over phone that Shah met him and his family members on Thursday and enjoyed some light food and "laddus" made at his home.
According to Rai, the Koch-Rajbongshi community with a total population of over a crore is categorised as Scheduled Caste in West Bengal and Other Backward Class in Assam. They mostly reside in western Assam and in seven districts of North Bengal, especially in Cooch Behar. Many in the political circles believe that during his visit, Shah might have sought the support from Rai and his community in view of the ensuing Assembly polls in Assam and West Bengal.
Six communities, including Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Chutia, Maran, Matak and Adivasi are demanding Schedule Tribe status.
The Cooch Behar or Koch Bihar (pronounced as Coach Bihar) has been transformed from a kingdom to a state and then to the present district.
Before August 28, 1949, Cooch Behar was a princely state ruled by the Cooch Behar king, who had been a feudatory ruler under the then British Government. Rai and other community leaders are often claimed that Cooch Behar was illegally and forcefully included in West Bengal and inclusion was against the treaty signed by Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan on August 28, 1949, with the government of India.
Shah had visited Assam on January 23-24 and addressed two rallies in Kokrajhar. Assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry are slated in April-May.