New Delhi/Kolkata: The BJP on Saturday released its first list of 57 candidates for the West Bengal assembly polls and fielded Suvendu Adhikari from his home turf Nandigram, a day after TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her candidature from the seat.
The list also features a number of new faces and candidates from politically crucial backward communities, as most of the constituencies that will go to polls during the first two phases are either reserved seats or have high density of SC and ST population.
The saffron party has given preference to turncoats, with around eight candidates including Adhikari — once a close aide of the feisty TMC boss — finding a place in the first list.
It, however, did field any candidate from minority communities, and has only six women nominees.
Former Indian cricketer Ashoke Dinda and ex-IPS officer Bharati Ghosh are among the 57 nominees, BJP general secretary Arun Singh said at a press conference, adding that the party has conceded one seat to its ally AJSU.
Ghosh will take on TMC’s Humayun Kabir, also a former IPS officer, in Debra.
Sixty seats will go to polls on March 27 and April 1.
Barring three seats, the saffron camp has announced names of candidates for the rest.
All eyes would be on Nandigram, the site of protests against the Left government which had ignited a popular upsurge and catapulted the TMC to power in 2011.
Adhikari, who had won the seat in 2016, quit the TMC in December last year and crossed over to the saffron party.
Banerjee relinquished her traditional seat Bhowanipore this time to cross swords with her former protegee and now BJP leader Adhikari.
“Jungle raaj” prevails in Bengal, and voters have made up their mind to oust the TMC, and elect the BJP to power, the saffron party general secretary claimed.
According to party sources, state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh’s name is doing the rounds for Kharagpur Sadar constituency, which he had bagged in 2016.
He resigned from the seat in 2019 after getting elected as an MP.
The BJP, however, lost Kharagpur Sadar to the TMC during assembly bypoll in December.
“Ghosh happens to be the most popular BJP leader in Bengal but nothing has been decided yet. A section of the leadership thinks Ghosh should be fielded from the seat, while there are some who think otherwise,” a senior leader of the party here said.
The TMC, this time, is bracing for a tough fight in West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura, where the saffron party has made deep inroads in the last Lok Sabha polls.
The saffron camp bagged eight of the nine seats in the Junglemahal area during the 2019 parliamentary polls.
Elections in Bengal, poised to be a stiff contest between the TMC and the BJP, will be held in eight phases, beginning with polling for 30 seats on March 27. Votes will be counted on May 2.
After having a limited presence in politically polarised Bengal for decades, the BJP has emerged as the ruling TMC’s main rival by winning 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 general election.
With the saffron camp growing from strength to strength in the state over the last few years, its leaders are upbeat that the party will end Mamata Banerjee’s 10-year rule in the upcoming polls.