Trinamool Congress declares 40% reservation for women candidates
Facing a tough triangular fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left-Congress combine, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has made sweeping changes to her Trinamool Congress’s candidates lineup in the upcoming general elections.
On Tuesday, Banerjee unveiled her list of candidates for the 42 seats West Bengal fills in the Lok Sabha, choosing women to contest 40%, or 17 seats. Banerjee brought in popular faces from the Bengali film industry, fielded her party’s senior-most minister, and a slain MLA’s wife waiting to turn 25 (the minimum age for fighting Lok Sabha polls) in a few days, and dropped MPs mostly in areas where the BJP did well in the last assembly polls.
Trinamool Congress, the second-largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha with 34 MPs, behind the Congress with 45, omitted eight sitting MPs. Another two MPs weren’t considered after having left the party, and one lawmaker, former actor Moonmoon Sen, was shifted from Bankura to Asansol, which is held by the BJP’s Babul Supriyo. She rewarded Congress MP Mausam Noor by picking her as a candidate after she switched sides to join the Trinamool recently.
Banerjee also did not repeat candidates in seven of the eight seats Trinamool lost in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, signalling her intent to win them this time. Banerjee has also announced some candidates in Assam, Odisha and Bihar.
Winning more seats in the Lok Sabha is crucial for Trinamool’s ambition of emerging as a potential kingmaker in a post-poll scenario. Opposition leaders, including Banerjee, have kept their options open for leadership roles and Trinamool insiders said regional parties would vie for a larger share of power depending on their strengths if non-BJP entities are in a position to form government in case of a fractured verdict.
Days after Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik said he would set apart 33% of seats in his state for women, the Bengal CM topped him. “About 41% candidates this time are women. In 2014, we had 35% women MPs,” said Banerjee.
Trinamool is one of the prominent supporters of the women’s reservation bill that aims to reserve one-third of the seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. In the current Lok Sabha, Trinamool has the highest number of women MPs (12) after the BJP’s 31.
Banerjee dropped two film actors —Tapas Paul and Sandhya Roy. She picked two top women movie actors, Mimi Chakraborty, to contest the prestigious Jadavpur seat, and Nusrat Jahan for Basirhat. In Jadavpur, sitting MP and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s grandnephew Sugato Bose did not get clearance from Harvard University, where he teaches, to contest for another term. One of the best-known women candidates of the party, former Youth Congress leader Mahua Moitra, replaced Paul in Krishnanagar.
The state’s senior-most minister Subrata Mukherjee will fight the election from Bankura after a gap of 10 years. In Kolkata south, Banerjee’s erstwhile parliamentary seat, her old confidante Mala Ray replaced Subrata Bakshi, who wanted to concentrate on organisational work. In Jhargram, where the BJP did well in the last panchayet polls, Trinamool fielded Birbaha Soren. Banerjee announced Ranaghata seat for Rupali Biswas, the widow of party MP Satyajit Biswas who was assassinated a few weeks ago. “She is not 25 yet. But will reach that age in the next few days,” said Banerjee.
Trinamool fielded Amar Singh Rai, a former Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader, for the Darjeeling seat, indicating the party’s growing influence in an area otherwise dominated by hill-based outfits.
“Qualitatively, the TMC candidate list looks similar to the one for 2014 polls, when there were quite a faces from outside politics. It appears wherever there were internal squabbles, non-political faces were nominated. The party is heavily banking on Mamata’s personal pull and the party’s symbol,” Maidul Islam, who teaches political science at Kolkata’s Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, said about the list of candidates.
The ruling party of West Bengal improved its vote share to 39.35% in 2014 from 31.18% in 2009. But the BJP saw the sharpest rise with 16.84% of votes polled in the last election against 6.14% votes in 2009. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress both saw steeps declines in their vote shares.
While she fielded candidates in all seats, Banerjee kept the doors for a post-poll alliance open. “Congress and CPI(M) have fought against us traditionally. We have ideological differences. But at national level we have an understanding with the Congress and many others,” Banerjee said, reiterating her position that it would do whatever was needed to topple the NDA government.
“Qualitatively, the TMC candidate list looks similar to the one for 2014 polls, when there were quite a faces from outside politics. It appears wherever there were internal squabbles, non-political faces were nominated. The party is heavily banking on Mamata’s personal pull and the party’s symbol,” said Maidul Islam, who teaches political science at Kolkata’s Centre for Studies in Social Sciences.