With instructions from the party’s national president, Amit Shah, BJP leaders yesterday went to visit Raju and Gita Mahali at Naxalbari near Siliguri to gift them new clothes ahead of Durga Puja.

Though not much has changed in the couple’s lives in the past two years since Mr Shah ate lunch at their hutment at South Kotiajote on 25 April 2017, the Mahalis hit headlines here, while days after hosting the president of the world’s largest party, they switched allegiance to the Trinamul Congress.

“Our party’s national president and Union home minister Amit Shah recalled their hospitality during his very busy schedule. He asked us to meet and gift them new clothes, including saris, ahead of Durga Puja. We went to their house today and handed new clothes to all the family members,” said the party’s state general secretary, Rathindra Bose. The couple has two children.

“What Trinamul Congress did was unethical, as they had made them join the party forcibly. But they failed to have the last laugh, as people in that area supported our party candidate Raju Bista in the Lok Sabha elections,” Mr Bose said.

The party leaders also distributed saris to members of five other neighbouring houses. The party leaders, however, denied it was part of the party’s outreach programme. Trinamul Congress leaders, however, said they did not want to give any importance to the development.

“The Mahali family is with the Trinamul Congress. The hut has been replaced with brick walls, and it now has two rooms and a kitchen under the Geetanjali Housing Scheme of the state government. The family has ration cards, power supply, cooking gas connection. We are trying to give Gita Mahali a job. Anyone can gift them things on Durga Puja. We don’t want to give much importance to this,” said Naxalbari Block-II Trinamul Congress president Prithwis Roy.

Earning a livelihood has remained a challenge for the young tribal couple. While Mrs Mahali plucks tea leaves, Mr Mahali works as a painter and travels to the India-Nepal border occasionally in search of some work.