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TMC to go solo in Bengal; releases candidate list for 42 LS seats, 7 MPs dropped

Kolkata, Mar 10 (PTI) The TMC on Sunday ended speculations of a possible seat adjustment with the Congress in Bengal by unveiling its candidate list for all 42 Lok Sabha seats, marking a significant overhaul by replacing seven sitting MPs and introducing several new faces, including former cricketer Yusuf Pathan.

Kolkata, Mar 10 (PTI) The TMC on Sunday ended speculations of a possible seat adjustment with the Congress in Bengal by unveiling its candidate list for all 42 Lok Sabha seats, marking a significant overhaul by replacing seven sitting MPs and introducing several new faces, including former cricketer Yusuf Pathan.

The Trinamool Congress maintained a harmonious blend of experienced leaders and fresh talent, amid the alleged power tussle between the old guards and the next-gen leaders.

Facing political heat over the incidents in Sandeshkhali, where allegations of sexual abuse against TMC leaders surfaced, the party brought in former MP Haji Nurul Islam replacing actor Nusrat Jahan in the Basirhat Lok Sabha seat, where the trouble-torn area is situated.

While 16 of 23 sitting MPs were retained, the TMC opted not to re-nominate seven incumbents and notably excluded BJP defector Arjun Singh from Barrackpore, who joined the TMC two years ago.

In the candidate list, 12 are women. Among the 26 new candidates, six are entirely new to the political arena.

Additionally, a Rajya Sabha MP and nine MLAs, including two state ministers Partha Bhowmick and Biplab Mitra, have been thrust into the Lok Sabha battle.

Addressing a rally at Brigade Parade Grounds here, Banerjee announced the party would contest the polls in Bengal 'alone'.

'We will contest the Lok Sabha polls in Bengal alone and will fight the Congress, BJP, and the CPI(M). We will also contest in Assam and Meghalaya. We are in talks with Akhilesh Yadav (of SP) for contesting one seat in UP,' she said.

While speaking about bringing in fresh faces and dropping sitting MPs, the TMC supremo said, 'I have fielded candidates, some people were dropped. Those who have not been re-nominated will be accommodated during the assembly polls.' Former cricketer Yusuf Pathan has been nominated from Baharampur, historically a stronghold of state Congress chief and five-term MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

'I'm eternally grateful to Smt. @MamataOfficial for welcoming me into the TMC family and trusting me with the responsibility to become the people's voice in the Parliament. As representatives of the people, it is our duty to uplift the poor and deprived, and that is what I hope to achieve,' Pathan posted on X.

Mahua Moitra, who was expelled from the Lok Sabha last year in cash for a query case, has been reaffirmed as the party's candidate from Krishnanagar.

Film star-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, who won the Asansol seat in a bypoll on a TMC ticket in 2022, has been re-nominated.

Kirti Azad, a former cricketer and party leader, has been nominated from Bardhaman-Durgapur constituency, previously lost to the BJP in 2019.

Notably, among the nine MLAs nominated for the polls, BJP defectors Biswajit Das and Mukutmani Adhikari will contest from Bongaon and Ranaghat, strongholds of the Matua community, which the TMC lost to the BJP in 2019.

Another BJP defector Krishna Kalyani, will be contesting from Raiganj seat in North Bengal, bagged by the BJP in 2019.

Party's Rajya Sabha MP Prakash Chik Baraik will take on Union minister and BJP MP Nisith Pramanik from Cooch Behar.

Interestingly, the party has replaced candidates in all the eight seats in North Bengal, which it lost to the BJP and the Congress in 2019. The BJP secured seven seats, while the Congress won one seat in North Bengal in the last LS polls.

The TMC has also struck a balance between experienced leaders and new blood, with three-term MPs Sudip Bandopadhyay, Sougata Roy, Satabdi Roy, Kalyan Banerjee, and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar being re-nominated from their respective seats of North Kolkata, Dum Dum, Birbhum, Serampore and Barasat.

The party has also introduced fresh faces like Saayoni Ghosh, Debangshu Bhattacharya, Gopal Lama, MLA June Maliah, Bapi Haldar, and actress Rachana Banerjee from the seats of Jadavpur, Tamluk, a stronghold of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, Darjeeling and Medinipur.

Bhattacharya, a party spokesperson and youth leader, gained instant fame during the 2021 assembly polls by coining the slogan and the song 'Khela Hobe', which went on to become a template for the party campaign against the BJP.

TMC MPs of Kanthi and Tamluk, Sisir Adhikari and Dibyendu Adhikari, whose names did not feature in the candidate list, have been maintaining a distance from the party after their family member Suvendu Adhikari joined the saffron camp in December 2020.

Additionally, Sujata Mondal Khan has been fielded from the Bishnupur seat against her ex-husband and sitting BJP MP Saumitra Khan.

Former IPS officer Prasun Banerjee, who recently resigned, will contest from Malda North to reclaim the seat from the BJP.

Apart from Pathan, the party has fielded four other political greenhorns in the Lok Sabha polls including actor Rachana Banerjee, Padma Shri awardee and Santhali playwright Kalipada Soren, noted psychiatrist Sharmila Sarkar and Shahnawaz Ali Raihan, a PhD scholar of Oxford University.

Rachana Banerjee will be pitted against BJP's sitting MP Locket Chatterjee from Hooghly, where the Singur area, known for anti-land acquisition protests against the erstwhile Left regime, is situated.

However, Arjun Singh, whose name did not feature in the candidate list, considered it as a blessing of Mamata Banerjee.

'I consider it as a blessing of Mamata Banerjee. However, when I re-joined the TMC from the BJP in 2022, I was told that I would be re-nominated from Barrackpore,' he said.

Reacting to candidature of Pathan from Baharampur, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said it was an attempt to divide Muslim votes.

The BJP, which wondered whether the TMC couldn't find its own candidates, said the candidate list is full of 'bohiragatos (outsiders)' - coinage used by TMC to attack BJP leaders.

'Pathan, TMC's Baharampur candidate, is from Baroda in Gujarat or West Bengal? TMC list is full of what Mamata Banerjee calls 'Bohiragotos'. Shame on her divisive politics, which is holding back West Bengal,' BJP leader Amit Malviya posted on X. PTI SUS PNT SMY PNT MNB

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