114 new faces in TMC candidate list; party looking to beat anti-incumbency
Kolkata, Mar 05: West Bengal”s ruling Trinamool Congress on Friday stole a march on its rivals, the BJP and the Left-Congress-ISF alliance, by coming out with the party”s full list of 291 candidates, bringing in 114 new faces in a bid to beat the decade-old anti-incumbency.
Announcing the candidate list, TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the remaining three seats of the 294 constituencies would be fought by its ally, the Bimal Gurung faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).
Reaching out to the politically crucial 49 per cent women voters and 30 per cent minority population, the TMC”s list has 50 women and 42 members of the minority community.
Besides, Banerjee fielded 79 Scheduled Caste and 17 Scheduled Tribe candidates.
Altogether 28 sitting MLAs, including five ministers, faced the axe because of age factor or poor health.
The feisty TMC boss, who herself switched constituency and will be fighting from the high profile Nandigram seat, either nominated new faces or interchanged candidates in 160 assembly constituencies.
Affirming her candidature only from Nandigram, Banerjee said she will not contest from her traditional Bhowanipore seat in Kolkata, as she threw a challenge to her protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari, who crossed over to the BJP in December.
“I will contest from Nandigram as I stick to my words. From Bhowanipore constituency, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay will contest the upcoming Assembly elections,” Banerjee said.
“On March 9, we will release our manifesto. On March 10, I will file my nomination for the Nandigram seat,” she told reporters.
Banerjee had announced in January that she would contest the poll from the Nandigram seat in Purba Medinipur district.
The BJP had challenged Banerjee to contest the poll from one seat only if she is confident of her victory.
When asked if Adhikari is likely to be pitted against her, she declined to comment on it.
Adhikari won from Nandigram in the 2016 assembly election while another TMC candidate emerged victorious from the seat in 2011.
Though Adhikari has time and again expressed his desire to take on his former boss directly in Nandigram, the saffron party leadership is yet to decide on it.
Banerjee and Adhikari were the prominent figures of the anti-land acquisition movement in Nandigram in 2007 that ultimately catapulted the firebrand TMC supremo to power in West Bengal in 2011, ending the 34-year-old rule of the Left Front.
“This time, we have put special stress on women, youth and backward communities. There are names of about 50 women, 42 Muslims, 79 SC and 17 ST candidates in the list,” she said. However, in 2016, the TMC had fielded 57 Muslim candidates.
Exuding confidence to return to power for the third consecutive term, Banerjee described this election as the “easiest” the TMC has ever faced.
“This would be a smiley election for us. We would win it,” she said when asked whether this will be the most challenging election ever the party had faced since its inception in 1998.
“After we come to power, we will create Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council) to accommodate senior and experienced leaders. We could not accommodate everybody, especially those above the age of 80 years,” she said.
Banerjee sought the blessings of the state”s people and urged them to have faith in her.
“I appeal to ”Maa Mati Manush” (Mother, Land and People) for your faith. Have faith in me, we will protect the state and take it to new heights,” she said, turning to the slogan the party used during 2011 election.
State Finance Minister Amit Mitra won”t be contesting elections due to poor health, the TMC supremo said.
Cabinet ministers Purnendu Bose and Abdur Razzak Mollah and ministers of state Ratna Ghosh Kar and Banchu Hansda were not given tickets this time.
Banerjee”s long time associate Sonali Guha and Singur MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya, a prominent face of the anti- land acquisition movement at Singur, were also dropped. Both were MLAs since 2001.
According to TMC sources, poll strategist Prashant Kishor and I-PAC”s survey has played a vital role in the candidate selection.
“Out of the 114 new faces, including in seats where the TMC had lost time, to interchanging candidates in at least 160 seats is a reflection of the survey of I-PAC,” a senior TMC leader said.
Actresses Sayantika Banerjee and Koushani Mukherjee, director Raj Chakraborty and several others from the film industry were given nominations.
Cricketer Manoj Tiwari and former footballer Bidesh Bose were also nominated.
Most of the celebs were fielded in tough seats from where TMC leaders have joined the BJP in the last one year.
Ratna Chatterjee and Sujata Mondal Khan, wives of BJP leader Sovan Chatterjee and Soumitra Khan respectively, were also given tickets by the TMC.
The editor of Hindi daily Sanmarg and former Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Gupta was made a candidate for the assembly election.
Ministers such as Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee will contest from their traditional seats.
Following the release of the candidate list, a number of MLAs who were dropped and their supporters protested in various parts of the state, blocking roads.
Several TMC leaders, who were either dropped or were aspirants, announced that they would quit the party.
The BJP mocked Banerjee for fielding so many new faces claiming that these are signs that the TMC doesn”t have faith in its own leaders.
“The TMC nominated so many new faces. Mamata Banerjee herself changed her traditional seat. These reflect that the TMC has already lost the election, even before the elections were announced,” state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said.
Banerjee released the candidate list from the same lucky room in her Kalighat residence from where she had done so in the 2011 and 2016 assembly elections.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, she announced candidates names from a different place within her residential premises, which proved unlucky for her.
The BJP had won 18 Lok Sabha seats in the last Parliamentary poll out of 42 constituencies in Bengal, only four less than the TMC”s tally of 22.