BJP fields ex-CEA from another seat after row
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday fielded former chief economic advisor Ashok Lahiri as its Balurghat candidate for the upcoming West Bengal assembly polls after party workers protested his candidature from Alipurduar constituency seeking the nomination of a local leader.
Actor Mithun Chakraborty, who recently joined the BJP, has not been fielded for the elections.
The party named 11 candidates in its final list for the elections and changed its nominees in two other constituencies. The BJP has now named all 294 candidates for the eight-phase polls, set to begin on March 27.
In a list released last week, the BJP named Lahiri as its Alipurduar candidate. After protests, he was replaced with Suman Kanjilal.
Speaking to news agency PTI on Tuesday, the former CEA said, “I had left West Bengal in 1971 (when the Naxal movement was at its peak in the state) as the situation here was not conducive for studies, but I was always mentally present in Bengal... I always had the feeling that I needed to get back to my roots and do some work here.”
The party also named retired Lt Gen Subrata Saha, former deputy chief of army staff, from Rashbehari in South Kolkata.
The list put an end to speculations that Mithun Chakraborty, a former superstar in Bollywood and an icon in Bengal, might be the BJP’s chief ministerial face in the assembly polls. While he registered himself as a voter in North Kolkata on Monday, he was not named a candidate for the polls.
“If the BJP wants it can field Chakraborty in a by-election later on. In 2011 when the TMC came to power Mamata Banerjee did the same thing. She won the Bhowanipore constituency in a by-election,” said Amal Mukhopadhyay, political commentator.
The BJP also fielded new candidates from Chowranghee and Kashipur-Belgachia seats, after the initial nominees – Sikha Mitra and Tarun Saha—refused to contest polls last week.
From Chowranghee, the BJP has fielded Debabrata Majhi, replacing Sikha, wife of former state Congress chief Somen Mitra. The party’s district unit president Shibaji Singha Roy has replaced Saha, husband of TMC MLA Mala Saha, in Kashipur-Belgachia.
“Mitra and Saha had refused to contest the polls and hence had to be replaced. Later the party’s central election committee decided to field separate candidates. There may have been some communication gap and the party is looking into it,” said a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity.
The party namedtwo Matua community candidates -- Subrata Thakur from Gaighata and Ashok Kirtonia from Bangaon Uttar, both in North 24 Parganas.
Thakur is the grandson of Matua leader Binapani Devi and the son of former TMC leader Manjul Krishna Thakur.
The Matua population is estimated at 50 million, of which about 30 million are in West Bengal alone and 15 million are listed as voters. The state’s Matua strongholds including parts of 24 North Parganas, Nadia, Cooch Behar, Dinajpur and Burdwan, have become the centre of a struggle for control between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP.
After the BJP’s announcement, the ruling TMC said that the party was politically bankrupt. “The BJP may field anyone from anywhere, but their defeat is imminent. Infighting has broken out within the party over selection of candidates. That the BJP is politically bankrupt and has no proper leaders in Bengal, has been proved as it had to bring in its central leaders and MPs to fight assembly polls,” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.