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Mamata supports Congress RS nominee, CPM fields former mayor but nomination may be rejected

The day-long drama over Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya’s candidature for the Rajya Sabha election in the state continued till late evening and experts said his nomination papers may not be cleared.

kolkata Updated: Jul 28, 2017 22:31 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Rajya Sabha,West Bengal,Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya
Former Kolkata mayor and leading lawyer Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya has played key role in court cases involving chit funds. (Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

Two days after CPI-M hardliners blocked general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s chances of returning to the Rajya Sabha for the third time, the Bengal unit of the party on Friday fielded former Kolkata mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya for the same seat although he had little chance of winning.

Bhattacharya’s journey however ran into rough weather. The Election Commission of India rejected his nomination on technical ground, saying he filed his papers beyond the deadline. CPI-M leaders argued that Bhattacharya filed his nomination in the morning and submitted the affidavit on personal assets two minutes before 3 pm, the deadline. Jayanta Kolay, secretary of the Bengal assembly and returning officer for the election, however said he received the affidavit after 3 pm. Friday was the last day for filing nomination. The nomination papers will be scrutinised again on Saturday.

Read: Yechury denied third term in Rajya Sabha by CPI(M)’s Kerala lobby

The day- long drama over a possible contest between the Congress and CPI-M - allies in Bengal till now - for the state’s sixth Rajya Sabha seat appeared fruitless although CPI-M leaders continued to argue with Kolay till late evening. The retuning officer did not change his decision. It became apparent that the remaining six candidates - five from Trinamool and one from Congress - would go to the Upper House of the Parliament unopposed.

With 31 MLAs in the assembly, the Left Front partners didn’t have the strength to ensure victory for Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya. On the other hand, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee announced her support for the Congress candidate, former PCC president Pradip Bhattacharya. As a leading lawyer, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya played a key role in public interest litigations that sought CBI inquiry into the recent chit fund scams.

Pradip Bhattacharya, former Bengal Congress president, has been supported by Mamata Banerjee as the sixth Rajya Sabha candidate from the state. ( HT File Photo )

CPI-M leaders said the decision to contest was taken because Trinamool Congress announced its support for the Congress nominee. Political observers felt that the development not only indicated a growing distance between the Left and Congress but also pointed at a possible alliance between Trinamool and Congress.

The Congress had earlier offered to back Yechury. Congress president Sonia Gandhi cleared Bhattacharya’s candidature on Thursday only after hardliners in the CPI-M central committee met in Delhi and argued that the party should not take help from Congress. Their decision irritated a large section of leaders in the CPI-M, especially those from Bengal, who were keen to see Yechury serving a third term.

Interestingly, the CPI-M, other Left parties, Congress and Trinamool supported Meira Kumar and Gopal Krishna Gandhi as their presidential and vice presidential nominees. The equations however changed this week.

“We will have six extra votes after getting our five candidates elected. These votes will go to Pradip Bhattacharya. The decision has been taken by chief minister Mamata Banerjee,” said Tapas Roy, veteran Trinamool leader and MLA.

Pradip Bhattacharya refused to comment on the controversy. “As a candidate I will seek support from MLAs of all parties, including Trinamool and Left. The only party I will not approach is the BJP,” he said.

Bikas Bhattacharya told HT that in Bengal CPI-M and Congress will continue to fight together as opposition parties, especially on issues such as Saradha and Narada.

First Published: Jul 28, 2017 22:31 IST