March 4, 2009

Three ministers, 18 new candidates in West Bengal’s Left Front list

Kolkata, March 3: Three ministers and 18 new faces figure in the list of candidates announced Tuesday by West Bengal’s ruling Left Front for the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, with Front chairman Biman Basu conceding that the alliance which has been ruling the state for 32 years faces a tough battle.

The ministers in fray are Sailen Sarkar from the newly created constituency Malda (North), Anisur Rehman from Murshidabad and Manohar Tirki from Alipurduar. While Sarkar and Reham belong to Left Front major Communist Party of India (Marxist), Tirki represents the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP).

Keeping intact the seat-sharing formula among the Front partners, the CPI(M) will contest 31 seats, Forward Bloc and RSP four each, while Communist Party of India (CPI) will field their candidates on three seats.

Bolpur, the seat which Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had won seven times consecutively on a CPI(M) ticket, will see Ramchandra Dom as the party’s candidate. Last time, Dom was elected from the neighbouring Birbhum constituency. Chatterjee, expelled from the CPI(M) for refusing to toe the party line and continuing as speaker during the Lok Sabha trust vote triggered by the left parties’ withdrawal of support to centre’s United Progressive Alliance dispensation over the India-US civil nuclear deal in mid last year, has announced his retirement from active politics.

But even if he had decided to seek re-election, Bolpur would have been out of bounds for the veteran parliamentarian as it has been reserved for a Scheduled Caste candidate. Former Asian Games gold medallist and sitting MP from Krishananagar Jyotirmoyee Sikdar has been renominated from the seat.

Veteran Congress leader and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee would be up against newcomer Mriganka Bhattacharya of the CPI(M) in Jangipur, while Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee faces an old rival in CPI(M)’s Rabin Deb in Kolkata South.

Among the party’s high-profile current MP's, Mohammad Salim will seek re-election from the new constituency Kolkata (North), while sitting MP Laxman Seth has being renominated from his Tamluk constituency, that includes the trouble-torn Nandigram.

CPI’s vocal Lok Sabha member Gurudas Dasgupta will seek the people’s verdict from Ghatal. In the 2004 Lok Sabha election, the Left Front had bagged 35 seats, while the Congress got six and the Trinamool Congress one.

Releasing the list, Basu said the alliance was waiting to see whether the Congress and the Trinamool can successfully conclude a seat-sharing arrangement in the coming days. “It will be a tough battle for us. We have to surmount a mountain of obstacles,” he said.

However, he said this alliance was not new. “Earlier, we used to fight the united Congress. Then Trinamool came out of it. Now the two parties and some other outfits are trying to form a Mahajot (grand alliance).”

“Whichever party forms an alliance, we are ready. We fight elections to safeguard the interests of the masses,” he said, after a Front meeting at the state headquarters of the CPI(M) at Alimuddin street.