Protests erupt in West Bengal over BJP's Lok Sabha poll candidate selection
Kolkata, Mar 23: Protests erupted in various parts of West Bengal after the BJP, in its first list of 28 candidates, nominated its veterans and defectors from the ruling Trinamool Congress to take on Mamata Banerjee's party in the state.
With old-timers being overlooked in favour of turncoats and newcomers, protestors gathered outside BJP offices in various parts of the state and, in some places, put up posters of rejected ticket aspirants outside the offices.
BJP state vice-president Raj Kamal Pathak submitted his resignation after he was denied a party ticket. The saffron party, which bagged two Lok Sabha seats in the state in the 2014 elections, is now targeting 23 of the state's 42 constituencies.
Of its 28 candidates, nearly 25 are new faces, with a thrust on active political workers rather than greenhorns from the glamour world. Unlike the TMC which had 18 new faces and a mix of old-timers and greenhorns, hardcore politicians and personalities from the film industry, the BJP has put faith on its own leaders and defectors from other parties.
"If after serving the party for three decades and holding the post of vice-president do not make me qualified to get a party ticket, it is better to resign from the post," Pathak said. The veteran BJP leader wanted to contest from Hooghly district, but he was overlooked in favour of a newcomer in the party.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said efforts will be made to pacify the dissidents. "There can be resentment in some places, but everything can be sorted out through discussions," BJP state secretary Rahul Sinha said.
This is not the first time the BJP has faced such protests. During the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls in 2015, several ticket aspirants staged protest rallies outside the party office.
Of the candidates, five had recently defected to the saffron party from the Trinamool Congress and one from the CPI(M). Union minister and BJP MP from Asansol Lok Sabha constituency Babul Supriyo has been renominated from the same seat and is pitted against actor Moon Moon Sen of the TMC.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh will contest from Medinipur seat against TMC leader Manas Bhunia. BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha will take on TMC heavyweight Sudip Bandopadhyay in Kolkata North Lok Sabha seat.
State BJP vice-president and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's grandnephew, Chandra Kumar Bose will contest from Kolkata South Lok Sabha seat. Former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh, once known to be close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, will be fighting against TMC candidate and actor Dipak Adhikary, popularly known as 'Dev', from Ghatal Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP has fielded former Trinamool Congress MLA Arjun Singh from Barrackpur Lok Sabha seat.
Singh, who had recently joined the saffron party, has been pitted against TMC's Dinesh Trivedi. In Coochbebar Lok Sabha seat, the party has fielded former TMC youth leader Nishith Pramanik, while in Jadavpur, expelled TMC MP Anupam Hazra will contest against TMC's Mimi Chakraborty, an actor by profession.
Another former TMC MP Soumitra Khan, who joined the BJP in January, has been given ticket from Bishnupur (SC) Lok Sabha seat.
Former CPI(M) MLA Khagen Murmu, who too had switched over to the BJP, will contest from Malda North seat against TMC's Mausam Benazir Noor, who had recently defected to the party from the Congress, in Malda Uttar seat.
Former TMC leader Sreerupa Mitra Chowdhury, who had contested elections on a TMC ticket from New Delhi, is the BJP candidate from the neighbouring Malda South seat. There are four women candidates and one Muslim nominee in the first list.
The BJP in minority-dominated seats such as Malda South, Malda North and Basirhat did not field any candidate from the community.
"We do not believe in giving tickets just on the basis of religion. For us winnability is the biggest criteria," said a state BJP leader.
The Lok Sabha elections in the state will be held from April 11 till May 19 in seven phases.