Kolkata: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday announced its candidates for the last four phases of the West Bengal assembly election but included two politicians who are not part of BJP and have publicly criticised their ‘nomination’.
The saffron party nominated late veteran Congress leader Somen Mitra’s wife Shikha Mitra from the central Kolkata seat of Chowringhee and outgoing Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA from Kashipur-Belgachhia constituency of north Kolkata, Mala Saha’s husband, Tarun Saha. Mala Saha was denied a ticket by the TMC for the upcoming election, which instead nominated deputy mayor of Kolkata, Atin Ghosh.
Through a video message, Mitra said, “I am not in BJP. I never was. It’s not possible for me to contest on a BJP ticket.”
Expressing shock over hearing the news of his nomination, Tarun Saha told a reporter present there, “I was busy with the campaign of our candidate and suddenly, I got to know that BJP named me as their candidate. I have not joined the BJP. They named me as a candidate without even consulting me.” Saha is a popular face of north Kolkata and a veteran TMC councillor in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
Both leaders alleged that they were never even consulted before the saffron party announced their candidature.
Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, the BJP withdrew Ashok Lahiri as its candidate for Alipurduar amid a wave of protests in North Bengal by party workers, replacing him with Suman Kanjilal.
Protests over BJP ticket distribution
The BJP has announced its candidates for West Bengal in three parts. After the announcement of the second list, large-scale protests broke out in various places across the state as the party fielded turncoats as BJP candidates.
Their anger was clearly visible when senior BJP leaders like national vice-president Mukul Roy, MP from Barrackpore Arjun Singh and national general secretary Shiv Prakash were heckled by protesters while they entered the party election office at Hastings in South Kolkata.
The rift between old-timers and newcomers in the West Bengal BJP was brewing for months with the party inducting scores of leaders from the TMC, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress almost daily in the state.
After the candidate lists were announced, there was an outburst of anger and frustration by party workers. Several aspirants voiced their anguish against the BJP and resigned after they were denied tickets.
Former TMC veteran and Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee, who joined the BJP after the 2019 Lok Sabha election along with his friend Baisakhi Bandhopadhyay, quit the party after he was not given a ticket from his desired constituency.
Similar protests broke out in Panchla, Udaynarayanpur and Raidighi as the BJP nominated two TMC defectors – Mohit Ghati and Santanu Bapuni – from Panchla and Raidighi constituencies and former Congress leader Sumit Ranjan Karar from Udaynarayanpur.
The BJP is also struggling to find suitable candidates for several high stakes battle in Bengal. Hence, the party has nominated Union minister Babul Supriyo and four sitting MPs – Locket Chatterjee, Nisith Pramanik, Jagannath Sarkar and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta (who resigned from the Upper House on Tuesday) – to contest the state election.
Interestingly, the BJP has fielded Mukul Roy – once Mamata Banerjee’s right-hand-man, now national vice-president of BJP – from Krishnanagar Uttar constituency. Roy was an unusual pick considering his experience electoral career. Sixty-six-year-old Roy contested the election only once in 2001 from Jagatdal assembly constituency and was defeated by over 50,000 votes.
Veteran Bengal unit leader Rahul Sinha will contest from Habra of North 24 Parganas district. Mukul Roy’s son, Subhranshu Roy, who joined the BJP in 2019, will be contesting from Bijpur constituency in North 24 Parganas.
The BJP has also fielded many film personalities such as Rudranil Ghosh, Srabanti Chatterjee, Parno Mitra, and fashion designer Agnimitra Paul from the Bhowanipore, Behala West, Baranagar and Asansol South constituencies, respectively.
Several defectors such as Jitendra Tiwari, Biswajit Kundu, Arindam Bhattacharya, Baishali Dalmiya, Shilbhadra Dutta, Sunil Singh, Sabyasachi Dutta have also been fielded by the BJP.