Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived to address an election rally on a wheelchair Sunday, but the same day, the BJP sought to turn up the heat on the Trinamool Congress. The national party has fielded Mamata’s 89-year-old former lieutenant in the anti-land acquisition movement in Singur, Rabindranath Bhattacharjee, as its candidate from the constituency.
Mamata’s lieutenants in both Singur and Nandigram anti-land acquisition movements, which played a role in her rise to power, are now representing the BJP. The man behind the Nandigram agitation, Suvendu Adhikari, is contesting against Mamata Banerjee herself in that constituency.
Bhattacharjee’s name was part of a list of 63 candidates put out by the BJP for the third and fourth phases of the West Bengal assembly polls. Four of these candidates are currently MPs — Union minister and Asansol MP Babul Supriyo, Hooghly MP Locket Chatterjee, Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik, and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta, who is making his first foray into electoral politics.
The party also gave tickets to three sitting Trinamool MLAs who jumped ship two months ago.
Who’s fighting where?
Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Babul Supriyo will contest the assembly polls from Kolkata’s Tollygunj seat, which is known as the base of Bengal’s film industry or ‘Tollywood’. He will be up against Trinamool minister Aroop Biswas.
Locket Chatterjee will contest from Chunchura, which falls under her Lok Sabha constituency of Hooghly, while Nisith Pramanik will fight from Dinhata, which is part of his Cooch Behar parliamentary seat.
Journalist-politician Swapan Dasgupta, meanwhile, has been fielded from temple town Tarakeshwar in Hooghly.
Three sitting Trinamool MLAs who switched sides — former minister Rajiv Banerjee, Prabir Ghoshal and Dipak Haldar — will contest the seats they held.
The BJP’s list also includes Tollywood actors Yash Dasgupta, Payel Sarkar and Tanushree Chakraborti.
Another interesting name on the list is that of economist Ashok Lahiri, who was India’s Chief Economic Adviser between 2002 and 2007 under finance ministers Jaswant Singh of the BJP and P. Chidambaram of the Congress, and is a member of the 15th Finance Commission. Lahiri has been fielded from north Bengal’s Alipurduar, which has a tea garden-centric economy and is dominated by tribals.
Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborti said of the list: “Babul Supriyo’s face may give BJP an urban boost and satisfy Bengalis’ sentiment that candidates should be educated. Locket Chatterjee and Nisith Pramanik are well aware of their areas as they have won there in 2019. If BJP forms the government, they are all probable ministers.”
“Similarly, Ashok Lahiri may be the choice for the finance portfolio, if the BJP wins Bengal.”
Mamata calls herself an ‘injured tigress’
After a brief three-day break in her poll campaign, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee returned on a wheelchair to address a rally in south Kolkata. She was injured in Nandigram Wednesday and was admitted to the state-run SSKM Hospital. The CM and her party alleged she was attacked in Nandigram and it was the BJP’s “conspiracy”. However, reports that reached the Election Commission from the state government and observers said it was an “accident”, and ruled out an attack.
The six-member panel of doctors at SSKM Hospital said in the medical bulletin that Banerjee had a “bony injury” but did not mention any fracture.
However, Mamata and her nephew and Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee said she would fight against the “conspirators” with a “broken leg”.
“An injured tigress is more dangerous,” the CM said, adding she would continue to travel across the districts with her “broken leg”. She went to Durgapur Sunday, and is set to address previously scheduled election meetings in Bankura and Purulia in the next two days.
“I am braving physical pain for you. My mental pain is greater than the physical pain. I cannot let the conspirators win. I was attacked multiple times throughout my political career. There had been several attempts to kill me. My whole body is witness to that as it bears the black mark of pain,” said Banerjee.
“I have never bowed down and will never do… I am starting my election programmes from today onwards and will move around the state with the injured leg. I am touched with the support I got from people,” she added.
Following the allegations of security lapses in her Nandigram programme, Banerjee’s security has been made more elaborate.
(This article has been updated to reflect that the BJP has also released its list of candidates for the fourth phase, and to correct the erroneous mention of Baishali Dalmiya as one of the candidates. The error is regretted.)