The West Bengal BJP today released what could be its final list of candidates for the upcoming Assembly polls. It has 13 names – but no Mithun Chakraborty. From Rashbehari, the seat many believed was reserved for the ‘Dada’ of Bengali cinema, the party has fielded retired Lieutenant General Subrata Saha, who was in charge of Kashmir during crucial years. BJP sources had earlier said that the prestigious south Kolkata seat was being kept open for the actor ever since he shared the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the BJP’s mega Brigade Parade Ground rally in Kolkata on March 7.
That’s also where the actor delivered his popular line from the Bengali film MLA Fatakeshto: “I will hit you here and your body will land at the crematorium.” He also delivered a new election line that day: “I am not a harmless water snake or a harmless desert snake. I am a pure cobra. With one strike, I will turn you into a photograph.” All this to a rousing reception.
On top of it, in recent weeks, he had also enlisted as a voter in Kolkata, transferring his voting card from Mumbai. For the moment, though, hopes of him contesting the polls have been dashed. However, there is nothing to stop him from being fielded later, replacing an existing candidate. The polls in Bengal are, after all, scheduled across eight phases and the last date of nomination for final phase comes around mid-April.
In some consolation for his fans, Mr Chakraborty is scheduled to campaign in Nandigram on March 30 for Suvendu Adhikari. Union Home Minister Amit Shah is likely to be present at that roadshow.
Meanwhile, former Chief Economic Advisor Ashok Lahiri, fielded earlier from Alipurduar in North Bengal and then replaced, is back as candidate from Balurghat.
A key change in the list published today pertains to Gaighata in North 24 Parganas district where the new candidate is Subrata Thakur. He is the brother of Shantanu Thakur, the BJP MP representing the Matua community, believed to be upset with the party for failing to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and lifting the uncertainty over their citizenship.
It was also said to be upset over no Matua member being fielded in the 30-40 seats where they hold the deciding vote. Mr Thakur is reported to have met with Mr Shah yesterday, after which the party decided to name his brother for Gaighata.
Names have also been changed for Chowringhee and Kashipore-Belgachia, where those listed earlier had protested saying they had never agreed to become the party’s candidates. Shikha Mitra, the former Trinamool MLA from Chowringhee and the wife of the late Congress leader Somen Mitra, was furious at being named without her consent. The original candidate named by the BJP for Kashipore-Belgachia turned out to be an active Trinamool member.
Three candidates have been named for Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Kalimpong. The Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat is held by the BJP’s Raju Bishta. In the past, the party had allied in the hills with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. This time, though, all factions of the Morcha are with the Trinamool. The BJP has, hence, had to file its own candidates there for the first time.