In BJP's list of candidates, 5 key Bengal constituencies to look out for
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday unveiled the names of 63 candidates who will be representing the party for the third and fourth phases of the upcoming assembly elections in West Bengal. The list featured, among other names, four lawmakers, a Union minister, a noted economist and several 'new faces' — Trinamool Congress turncoats and film personalities.
Hours after the candidates' names were announced, the rift between old-timers and newcomers in West Bengal BJP came out in the open as several aspirants voiced their anguish against the party and resigned after they were denied tickets, while protests were held across the state. The nomination of Ashok Lahiri from the Alipurduar seat and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha turncoat Bishal Lama from Kalchini also triggered a wave of protests in North Bengal with the local leadership hitting the streets.
Elections to the 294-member West Bengal assembly will be conducted in eight phases between March 27 and April 29. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.
Here, we take a look at a few of the key constituencies and candidates to feature in the list:
Dinhata, Cooch Behar
BJP candidate: Nisith Pramanik
Lok Sabha MP Nisith Pramanik is contesting the Dinhata assembly constituency as a BJP candidate. The segment comes under his Lok Sabha constituency of Cooch Behar.
Pramanik had switched over from the TMC to the BJP last year. He is now set to face off against two-time MLA Udayan Guha, who is Trinamool's candidate of choice for the seat.
The district of Cooch Behar in North Bengal has nine assembly constituencies, of which the BJP announced candidates in seven — Mekliganj, Mathabhanga, Sitalkuchi, Sitai, Dinhata, Tufanganj, and Coochbehar Uttar. Barring the last, the TMC had won all six assembly segments in the 2016 assembly polls. The Cooch Behar Uttar seat was won by the Forward Bloc.
Tollyganj, South 24 Parganas
BJP candidate: Babul Supriyo
Babul Supriyo, the Union minister of state for environment, forest and climate change, has been nominated from the Tollygunge seat in Kolkata, a seat far away from his Lok Sabha constituency of Asansol in Paschim Bardhaman district.
He is pitted against senior TMC leader and state minister Aroop Biswas, who has been consistently winning the seat for his party since 2006. However, Supriyo has expressed confidence in his ability to handle both Tollygunge and Asansol. In turn, he has accused Biswas of silencing dissident voices.
Behala Purba, South 24 Parganas
BJP candidate: Payel Sarkar
The Behala Purba (East) constituency is being contested on part of the BJP by Tollywood actor-turned-politician Payel Sarkar, who joined the party a few days back.
The assembly segment has a bit of interesting history. Sovan Chatterjee, who won the seat for the TMC both in 2016 and 2011 and had been an influential leader in the region over several decades, is the sitting MLA. Before joining the BJP, he was also the mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation and a minister in the TMC government.
However, Chatterjee recently quit the party along with his friend Baisakhi Bandopadhyay after both of them were denied tickets by the BJP. In his resignation letter to the party's state president Dilip Ghosh, Chatterjee accused the BJP of humiliating him. The BJP, for its part, said that since the TMC fielded Sovan Chatterjee's estranged wife, Ratna Chatterjee, from the same constituency, the party did not want the former couple to contest against each other.
BJP candidate: Rabindranath Bhattacharya
In a surprise move, the party nominated Trinamool Congress turncoat and octogenarian sitting MLA of Singur, Rabindranath Bhattacharya. Of late, the BJP has not been nominating such elderly persons as poll candidates.
Bhattacharya, renowned in the Singur region as "mastermoshai" (professor), had been winning the seat for the TMC since 2001. Since he was not offered a ticket this time, the leader switched over to the BJP earlier this month. Bhattacharya, who once played a crucial role in the Singur land movement that put an end to the Left Front's 34-year-regime in the state, is now set to contest against TMC candidate Becharam Manna, a one time ally of his.
BJP cadres in Singur are not too happy about the party's choice of candidate, however.
Singur is set to witness an interesting contest in the upcoming polls, with the CPI(M) pitting youth leader Srijan Bhattacharya to take on political heavyweights.
BJP candidate: Swapan Dasgupta
Senior journalist and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta is the BJP's nominee for the Tarakeshwar assembly segment. By fielding columnist Dasgupta and economist Ashok Lahiri in these elections, the BJP has sought to impress the sophisticated 'Bhadralok' community of the eastern state, political observers were quoted as saying, noting that the Bengali intelligentsia refrained from backing the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls despite a large consolidation of Hindu votes around it.
In both 2016 and 2011, Trinamool's Rachhpal Singh had won the seat with over 97,000 votes. This time, the TMC fielded Ramendu Singha to contest the assembly segment.
Dasgupta is presently facing the heat from opposition parties, who claim that he neither resigned from the House before contesting the election nor has he joined any party.