TMC snubs INDIA in West Bengal, names candidates on all seats for LS polls | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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TMC snubs INDIA in West Bengal, names candidates on all seats for Lok Sabha polls

By, Kolkata
Mar 11, 2024 04:54 AM IST

The TMC’s rebuff will represent the largest pre-poll setback for the INDIA bloc so far, given that Bengal has the third largest share of MPs in the country.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) announced its list of candidates for all 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal on Sunday, shrugging off the Congress’s proposal for an alliance in the crucial state and cementing the latest setback for the Opposition’s Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee along with 42 Lok Sabha candidates at Brigade Parade Ground during 'Jonogorjon' Rally in Kolkata, India, on Sunday. (Samir Jana/ Hindustan Times)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee along with 42 Lok Sabha candidates at Brigade Parade Ground during 'Jonogorjon' Rally in Kolkata, India, on Sunday. (Samir Jana/ Hindustan Times)

Read here: TMC list: 8 sitting MPs dropped, Haji Nurul Islam named from Sandeshkhali's Basirhat; key takeaways

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The party dropped five of its sitting Lok Sabha members, with West Bengal chief minister and party chairperson Mamata Banerjee naming a raft of new candidates, including former cricketer Yusuf Pathan, who will contest from the Baharampur constituency, which state Congress chief and five-time parliamentarian Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has held since 1999.

Banerjee’s nephew and party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee revealed the list, also comprising actors, doctors and writers, during an elaborate rally at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata on Sunday afternoon.

“We will contest the Lok Sabha polls in Bengal alone and will fight the Congress, BJP, and the CPI(M). We will also contest in Assam and Meghalaya. We are in talks with (Samajwadi Party chief) Akhilesh Yadav to contest one seat in Uttar Pradesh,” the chief minister said during a 15-minute speech as she paced across a 300-foot long makeshift ramp built through the centre of the ground.

Meanwhile, Abhishek Banerjee, who will return to contest from Diamond Harbour, said “the ‘Modi ki guarantee’ has zero warranty. Only Mamata Banerjee and the TMC keep their promises.”

Former MP Mahua Moitra, who was expelled from the Lok Sabha last year in a cash-for-query case, will contest the Krishnanagar seat once again, the party said, even as it dropped sitting MP Nusrat Jahan from Basirhat, where the strife-torn Sandeshkhali village is located, choosing instead to field party MLA Haji Nurul Islam.

The TMC currently holds 22 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha segments, the BJP 17 and the Congress two. The Krishnanagar seat has been vacant since Moitra was expelled from the Lower House of Parliament on December 8 last year.

Sunil Mondal from Burdwan East, Arjun Singh from Barrackpore, Aparupa Poddar from Arambagh and popular actor Mimi Chakraborty from Jadavpur were the other four parliamentarians absent from the party’s list, with people aware of the selection process, saying the party leadership wanted “more efficient MPs”.

To be sure, Chakraborty asked to be kept out of the contest citing personal reasons and personally approached the chief minister a few days ago.

However, the chief minister indicated that some of the lawmakers not accommodated will find a place in the assembly polls list.

“We have fielded some candidates and dropped some people. Those who have not been nominated again will be accommodated during the assembly polls,” she said.

The TMC’s list comes exactly a week after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its principal opposition in the state revealed its first list of 195 candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, including 20 for West Bengal, retaining 11 of its 17 MPs.

Of the TMC’s 42 candidates, 12 are women, 10 are sitting MLAs, while four are political newcomers.

The TMC’s rebuff will represent the largest pre-poll setback for the INDIA bloc so far, given that West Bengal has the third largest share of parliamentarians of any state in the country, after Uttar Pradesh (80) and Maharashtra (48).

The INDIA bloc stitched an alliance in UP, even as seat-sharing conversations for Maharashtra continue between the Congress, NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) and Shiv Sena (UBT).

Congress leader Chowdhury said Banerjee feared Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Mamata Banerjee is worried that if she joins the INDIA Alliance, she will have to face Modi. She is worried that if the ED and CBI start visiting TMC on Modi’s orders, it could pose a risk to the TMC party,” said Chowdhury, who has launched barbs at the TMC, even as his party made a slew overtures to see through a seat-sharing plan.

He also said that Banerjee’s “main aim is to defeat Adhir Chowdhury at any cost, even if it means BJP winning.”

Of the 42 names, Pathan’s was the biggest surprise.

“Kolkata always gave me a lot of love. I am grateful to Mamata Banerjee for giving me an opportunity to serve,” said the 41-year-old from Gujarat, who was part of India’s 2007 T20 World Cup-winning squad.

Pathan also played for the Indian Premier League’s Kolkata Knight Riders franchise between 2011 and 2017.

Indeed, the TMC has a history of fielding celebrities during the assembly polls. During the 2014 general elections, for instance, the party handed a ticket to the actor Deepak Adhikari, who won the polls from the Ghatal constituency for two straight terms. He will contest Ghatal for a third term this summer.

Sharmila Sarkar, a psychiatrist who has been fielded from the Burdwan East seat in place of two-time MP Sunil Mondal, is among the debutants this year.

“TMC approached me a few days ago with the offer. I was initially in two minds since I am a practicing psychiatrist. This is a new world to me,” she said.

The oldest among the TMC nominees is 76-year-old veteran parliamentarian Saugata Roy, who will contest from the Dum Dum constituency again.

“The contest will not be difficult. It has been my home for 15 years,” said Roy.

The youngest candidate is 28-year-old TMC spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya, who is making his debut in the elections. He has been fielded from East Midnapore district’s Tamluk which is likely to be contested by former Calcutta high court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay, who resigned from service on March 5, five months before retirement, and joined the BJP on March 7.

Prasun Banerjee, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who resigned from his position as inspector-general of Raiganj range last week, has been fielded from the Malda North seat, which BJP wrested in 2019.

Read here: Yusuf Pathan, fielded by Mamata Banerjee's TMC in Lok Sabha polls, thanks Bengal CM: ‘As people’s representatives…'

Former Indian cricketer Kirti Azad, who left BJP and joined TMC a few years ago, has been fielded from the Burdwan-Durgapur seat in West Burdwan district that BJP’s SS Ahluwalia won in 2019.

“I am not new to Bengal. I used to come here to play cricket. I am grateful to Mamata Didi,” Azad said.

Opposition parties criticised the TMC for leaning on “people from other states”, purportedly a reference to Pathan’s candidacy.

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari said, “The candidate list makes it clear that it has no leader of its own. The party has to borrow people from other states, other fields and even other parties such as BJP.”

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