West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will not be campaigning for any of the 54 Left Front candidates who will face the ballot in the first phase of polling in north Bengal on April 18.
Instead, Goutam Deb, state housing minister, has been invited to campaign in the area.
Bhattacharjee’s absence from the campaign schedule is a surprise given that in March, party General Secretary Prakash Karat had categorically said the elections in Bengal would be fought under his leadership.
The decision appears to stem from a growing perception that the CM is no longer a crowd puller, although party officials insist he remains their "star campaigner." Since north Bengal goes to polls in the first phase, political observers believe, a poor show in the event of Bhattacharjee choosing to campaign there might have a dampening effect on the party's campaign for the later phases.
“The CM will concentrate on south Bengal,” Ashoke Bhatta-charya, urban development minister and party’s state committee member, told HT.
According to the party’s official version, the prohibition on microphones and loudspeakers will continue till 5 pm on April 13, giving it only three days for campaigning. “It will be difficult to arrange a public meeting for the chief minister, especially with April 14 being Chaitra Sankranti and April 15 being Bengali New Year,” says Bhattacharya.
“In this battle, Gautam Deb is our commander,” said Aniruddha Bhowmik, CPI(M)’s district committee member in North Dinajpur.
CM files nomination
Amid tight security, Bhattacharjee on Tuesday filed his nomination from Jadavpur constituency in South 24-Parganas district which will go to polls in the third phase on April 27. The CM is pitted against former state chief secretary and Trinamool Congress candidate Manish Gupta.
His affidavit filed with the Election Commission states his income for the year 2009-10 as R1 lakh. Bhattacharjee has no bank deposit, investment, fixed deposit or jewellery. The chief minister has no immovable or movable property, farm land, non-agricultural land, commercial or residential building in his own name nor has he inherited any property. The I-T returns of Bhattacharjee's wife Mira, however, show an income of Rs 6.7 lakh in 2009-10, movable assets valued at over Rs 31 lakh, including bank deposits, jewellery and investments.
With input from PTI.