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

Kolkata Mar 10 (PTI) Ending speculations on seat adjustments with the Congress in Bengal, the TMC on Sunday unveiled its candidate list for all 42 Lok Sabha seats, marking a significant overhaul by replacing seven sitting MPs and introducing 60 per cent new faces, including former cricketer Yusuf Pathan.

Kolkata Mar 10 (PTI) Ending speculations on seat adjustments with the Congress in Bengal, the TMC on Sunday unveiled its candidate list for all 42 Lok Sabha seats, marking a significant overhaul by replacing seven sitting MPs and introducing 60 per cent new faces, including former cricketer Yusuf Pathan.

The list reflected a mixed bag of experienced leaders and fresh blood amid the alleged power tussle within the party between the old guards and next-gen leaders.

Facing political heat over the incidents in Sandeshkhali, where allegations of land grab and 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 located.

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.

Comprising 12 women candidates, the candidate list sported 26 fresh faces, 11 of whom were political greenhorns. Not a single candidate who lost in the 18 seats in the previous edition of the polls was offered candidature this time around.

Nine MLAs, including two state ministers Partha Bhowmick and Biplab Mitra, and a TMC Rajya Sabha member were also thrust into the poll fray.

Addressing a rally at Brigade Parade Grounds here, Banerjee announced the party would contest the polls in Bengal all by itself.

'We will contest the Lok Sabha polls in Bengal alone. 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.

Speaking on the candidature overhaul, the TMC supremo said, 'Some people had to be dropped from our candidate list. Those who have not been re-nominated will be accommodated during the assembly polls or in other party positions.' Banerjee sprung the biggest surprise of the day by nominating former cricketer Yusuf Pathan from Baharampur seat, which is historically a stronghold of state Congress chief and five-term MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

'I'm eternally grateful to Smt. Mamata Banerjee 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, was 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, was also re-nominated from the same seat.

Kirti Azad, a former cricketer and party leader, was offered candidature from Bardhaman-Durgapur constituency, previously lost to the BJP in 2019.

Among the nine MLAs nominated for the polls, two BJP defectors Biswajit Das and Mukutmani Adhikari were offered tickets from Bongaon and Ranaghat.

Another BJP defector Krishna Kalyani, will contest from Raiganj seat, previously bagged by the BJP.

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

The party replaced candidates in all the eight seats in North Bengal, seven of which it lost to the BJP and one to Congress in 2019 LS polls.

The TMC also struck a balance between experienced leaders and new blood, with three-term MPs Sudip Bandopadhyay, Saugata 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 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 respectively.

Former TMC MPs of Kanthi and Tamluk, Sisir Adhikari and Dibyendu Adhikari, were also dropped. Both leaders 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 was fielded from Bishnupur 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.

Besides Pathan, the party fielded four other political greenhorns in the LS 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.

Barrackpore's sitting MP, Arjun Singh, who won the seat in 2019 on a BJP ticket and later jumped ship to the TMC, a party he was previously a leader of, told PTI that he was expecting a ticket.

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

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

'Pathan 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.

Speaking at Brigade rally, Mamata Banerjee lauded Election Commissioner Arun Goel's resignation a day before for 'not succumbing to BJP's pressure'.

Party's perceived second-in-command Abhishek Banerjee branded the BJP as 'zamindars, outsiders and oppressive forces', and raised the central slogan for the programme: Jonogoner Gorjon, Bangla Birodhider Bisarjan (The roar of the people is to dump those who are anti-Bengal).

Stating 'Modi's guarantee has zero warranty' Banerjee continued, 'Whose guarantee does Bengal want? Modi or Didi? Bengal's bhoomi putro (sons of the soil) or Bohiragoto (outsiders)?' 'Those who don't understand our language, how can they understand our hearts?' Abhishek said, adding, 'Those who cannot speak, write, or read Bengali, will Bengal take guarantee from them?' PTI SUS PNT SMY MNB

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