Kolkata: The BJP has brought former chief economic advisor Ashok Lahiri back in the fray in the upcoming West Bengal assembly polls by fielding him from south Dinajpur’s Balurghat constituency.
His name was announced Tuesday as part of a list of 13 candidates for phases five to eight of the election. The move comes just five days after Lahiri was dropped as the candidate for Alipurduar following protests by party workers in the district unit.
Lahiri’s new constituency, Balurghat is a semi-urban seat where the BJP led by around 39,000 votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. A Presidency College graduate, the 70-year-old Bengali economist was initially fielded in Alipurduar where the party had a lead of around 38,000 votes in 2019. He was replaced by Suman Kanjilal, the BJP’s district secretary at Alipurduar who had led the protests against Lahiri’s candidature.
BJP’s latest list of candidates also included Subrata Thakur, elder brother of BJP’s Matua MP Santanu Thakur.
Subrata currently heads the All India Matua Mahasangha, headquartered at Thakurnagar in north 24 Parganas. He will contest from Gaighata constituency, one of the four SC seats — Bagda, Bongaon Uttar, Bongaon Dakshin and Gaighata — with an 80 per cent Matua population in North 24 Parganas district.
Why BJP is keen on Lahiri
This election, both the BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress have had their share of troubles in terms of internal conflicts and protests over candidates.
Lahiri, who, according to party sources, requested for a seat in south Bengal and near Kolkata or Howrah, is considered a formidable addition to the BJP’s candidates list and could potentially be pitched as the state’s next finance minister if the party wins.
“We had to put our former CEA Ashok Lahiri in a safe seat. We will need him if voted to power. He might be pitched as the finance minister if we are able to form the government. Apart from politician candidates, we need to have some academically credible Bengali faces,” a top BJP leader told The Print.
Balurghat is the biggest distribution centre in north Bengal. The main goods traded include rice, jute, sugarcane, fisheries and oilseeds. Once considered to be a stronghold of the Left Front ally, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), the BJP has been making inroads here since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and has managed to build a strong presence and support base.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)