The BJP on Thursday announced its list of 157 candidates for the last four phases of assembly election in West Bengal, rewarding around 22 turncoats and fielding party heavyweights Mukul Roy and Rahul Sinha. The candidate list also features 17 Muslim faces, including women.
The party is facing protests and resignations as many of its aspiring old-timers did not find their names in the list of candidates. Roy’s son Subranghshu, a sitting TMC MLA, state BJP Mahila Morcha president Agnimitra Paul, Bengali film personalities Rudranil Ghosh, Srabanti Chattopadhyay and Parno Mitra were among those given tickets by the saffron party.
Roy, BJP national vice-president and former union minister, is back in the electoral fray after a gap of two decades. He will contest from the Krishnanagar Uttar seat, which is dominated by the Matua community. He had unsuccessfully contested election on a TMC ticket in 2001.
The BJP, which has emerged as the main opposition in the state, has also fielded sports personalities and a scientist for the high stakes battle in the state. Despite protests over recruits getting more importance than old-timers in the candidates’ list, the party gave nominations to 22 turncoats, including several former TMC MLAs like Arindam Bhattacharya who has been fielded in Jagatdal and Jitendra Tiwari in Pandaveswar.
However, in some cases, the saffron party has not given nominations to turncoats from their home seats to avoid dissent. The list also has 19 women candidates, which is more than its previous two lists.
The party continued with its strategy of fielding personalities from different walks of life and sitting MPs. It named folk artiste Ashim Sarkar from Haringhata assembly seat and scientist Gobhardhan Das from Purbasthali Uttar.
It has fielded its former state unit chief Rahul Sinha, who is yet to taste success in any of the elections he has contested so far, from Habra against the state Food Supplies Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick. The BJP has nominated party MP Jagannath Sarkar for the Santipur seat.
The party has so far announced names of five sitting MPs, including Union minister Babul Supriyo, as its candidates for the state election. Nominations were also given to the wife of former state Congress president Somen Mitra and husband of TMC MLA Mala Saha. The two are Sikha Mitra and Tarun Saha respectively.
However, in an embarrassment for the party, both Sikha Mitra and Tarun Saha refused their tickets and said they are firmly with their parties – the Congress and the TMC. “I don’t know how my name featured in the candidate list. I am still with the Congress and will remain so,” Mitra told reporters.
Just like its previous lists, the BJP nominated several film personalities in its third list. Ghosh, who had recently switched over from the TMC, has been chosen as the candidate for the Bhawanipur seat in Kolkata, which used to be Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s backyard.
However, just hours after the list was announced, the rift in Bengal BJP between the old-timers and the new inductees came out in the open. Several BJP leaders and aspirants voiced their anguish after they were denied nomination. Protests were held in various parts of the state and some party leaders even quit the party. BJP state Yuva Morcha leader Sourav Sikdar, the nephew of former BJP leader Tapan Sikdar, resigned from all party posts after he was denied a ticket. He accused the present party leadership of humiliating old-timers.
The nomination of Bhattacharya from Jagtadal and Tiwari from Pandaveswar constituencies triggered a wave of protests in south Bengal. The local leaders of the party hit the streets and opposed their nomination. In north Bengal, nomination to former TMC leader Mihir Goswami kicked off protests with BJP activists staging road blockades.
Protest was reported in Durgapur Purba constituency where Diptanshu Chowdhury, who had recently joined BJP, was given the nomination. Forner chief economic advisor to the government of India, Ashok Lahiri, who was fielded from the Alipurduar seat, was removed following protests. The party now nominated Suman Kanjilal for that seat.
The BJP has so far announced candidates for 280 seats. The TMC mocked the situation of the saffron party.
“Every time BJP announce a list of candidates for #BengalElections2021 you can make an omelette. So much egg on their face, senior TMC leader Derek O’Brien tweeted. Election for the 294-seat West Bengal assembly will be held in eight phases, with the first phase on March 27 and the last on April 29. The results will be announced on May 2.