TMC eases one-person-one-post rule for Kolkata civic polls; fields 45% women nominees
With the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party gearing up for their second battle since the March-April assembly polls in which the saffron camp could win only 77 of Bengal’s 294 seats, the ruling party on Friday evening sprang a surprise by nominating 45% women and 23 minority community members in its list of 144 candidates for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls.
The significant aspect of the TMC’s battle plan for the Kolkata civic polls was Mamata Banerjee’s decision to relax the one-person-one-post policy and nominate six members of the legislative assembly (MLA) of whom four were councillors in the outgoing board. The most prominent among them is transport minister and former Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim, an old and trusted aide of the chief minister.
The polls for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation are scheduled to be held on December 19.
The TMC controls most of the civic bodies in Bengal. The terms of the elected boards ended during the last two years but elections were not held because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a stop-gap measure, the government appointed the elected heads of the civic boards as administrators. For example, Hakim continues as head of the KMC’s administrative board.
The list was announced after a three-hour long meeting at the chief minister’s south Kolkata residence. It was attended by all senior leaders, including TMC national secretary Abhishek Banerjee, and the party’s election strategist Prashant Kishor who made some crucial recommendations, party leaders said.
The TMC now controls 126 of the KMC’s 144 seats and is expected to repeat its performance because of being in power, according to political observers.
TMC’s leader in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay said: “We had 126 councillors in the last KMC board. Of them, 87 are being re-nominated. Six will however not contest from their old wards this year. Thirty-nine of the old councillors have been dropped but they will be used for orgnisational work.”
“Among the nominees, 80, or around 55%, are men and 64, or roughly 45%, are women. Nineteen nominees are from the scheduled caste communities while 23 are minority community members. Two are Christians. All sections of the society are being represented,” Bandopadhyay added.
“I will follow the instructions of the party. I grew up working for the people,” said Hakim, refusing to comment on the decision to go against the one-person-one post policy that Mamata Banerjee announced earlier this year.
Alongside the MLAs, the TMC also fielded new Lok Sabha member Mala Roy who earlier proved to be an efficient councillor from the Kalighat area where the chief minister lives. However, Shantanu Sen, a Rajya Sabha MP, was not fielded again.
“There is nothing to feel bad about this. The party is projecting new faces. It is our policy,” said Sen who represented a ward in north Kolkata.
“Mamata Banerjee heard all the leaders and cleared the list,” said TMC secretary general and minister Partha Chatterjee. “The party took the decision to re-nominate some MLAs because it wants to utilize them. After the polls, the winners will decide who will be the next mayor,” he added.
Three TMC MLAs who got re-nomination are Atin Ghosh, Debasish Kumar and Debabrata Majumdar. Kumar became an MLA for the first time this year. Two other MLAs were also included in the list but their names were not announced till 8 pm.
Though engaged in a similar exercise, the BJP could not release its list with party leaders indicating that the names might be announced during the weekend. The Left Front, however, released its list, leaving 17 of Kolkata’s 144 seats for Congress and other non-Left parties whom it called “friendly allies” without specifying names.
“In these 17 seats, we will support parties or alliances that are against the TMC and BJP,” Kallol Majumdar, secretary of the CPI(M)’s Kolkata district committee, said while releasing the list and the Left Front’s election manifesto that promised better civic amenities, empowerment of women and environment-friendly projects. The CPI(M) is contesting around 90 seats.
Since their formal alliance ended with the assembly polls, Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Left Front chairman Biman Bose earlier said there will be no state-level talks on alliance anymore but local leaders from the Congress and the Left parties were free to have electoral understanding in their respective areas if they felt it was necessary to stop the BJP and TMC.
“We have told the state Congress that they can have an understanding with the Left parties at the local level,” said Chowdhury who is in Delhi to attend the winter session of the Lok Sabha.
West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Tuesday cautioned state election commissioner Saurabh Das and said he should not play any partisan role during the coming elections in the state’s 120-odd municipalities and corporations.
Das was summoned to Raj Bhawan on Tuesday afternoon when the governor also wanted to know why simultaneous polls in all civic bodies were not being planned by the state election commission (SEC). The BJP has already moved the Calcutta high court with the same demand and the case will be heard next week.
“It may pertinently be recalled that the SEC itself had mooted the idea of simultaneous elections to all the municipalities earlier. The overwhelming political inputs are for the same. There does not appear to be any rationale for any deviation thereof. It is imperative at your end to ensure that the Constitutional mandate is regarded both in letter and spirit, and I am sure you will bear this in mind,” Dhankhar wrote in a letter to Das on Tuesday.
The state government wanted to hold the polls in phases, starting with Kolkata and Howrah on December 19. The government also recently announced that the Howrah Corporation Zone will be split so that a new civic body can be formed at Bally. However, till Friday the governor did not sign the bill that the state assembly passed to give effect to this decision.
The state election commission has already announced the schedule for the Kolkata civic polls. A decision regarding Howrah can be taken only after the court hears the BJP’s petition and the governor signs the bill, officials said.