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TMC announces candidates for LS polls; Mahua Moitra, Yusuf Pathan make it to the list


KOLKATA: Putting an end to the future of India bloc alliance in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress announced its candidate list for all 42 Lok Sabha candidates roping in veterans, fresh faces, actors and cricketer. The party fielded 26 new faces and 11 MLAs in the Lok Sabha poll fray axing five sitting MPs.

Yusuf Pathan, former Indian cricketer, is said to be the most surprising candidate on the list as he will contest against state Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in Berahmpore constituency, Murshidabad, who was not in favour of an alliance with the TMC as part of INDIA coalition.

Murshidabad has Bengal’s highest Muslim population of nearly 67 per cent and Chowdhury has been winning the Berhampore seat since 1999 but his victory margin dropped over the years.

Reacting to Pathan’s candidature, Chowdhury said, “If Mamata Banerjee wanted to show respect to the Indian cricketer, she could have sent him to Rajya Sabha. But she decided to field him in Berhampore to divide the Muslim votes.”

Another former cricketer Kirti Azad, BJP MP from Darbhanga in 2014 who was suspended a year after, was also roped into the poll fray. The party, however, decided to keep its faith on veteran MPs like Saugata Roy and Sudip Bandopadhyay.

The TMC, however, decided to field Mahua Moitra, who was suspended from Lok Sabha in connection with cash-for-question scandal, from Krishnagar.

“The allegation levelled against her was during the tenure of her previous term in Lok Sabha. If she gets elected fresh, the allegation will not be applicable for her new stint in the lower House of Parliament and there will be no bar for her to step in,” said a senior TMC leader.

Kicking off campaign for the upcoming general elections, the TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee released the list of candidates from the Brigade Parade Grounds rally titled Jana Garjan, BJP-r Bisorjon (people’s roar, BJP’s immersion). She walked on the 300-ft ramp built on the rally ground with the nominees, something no state possibly witnessed in the past.

Rachana Banerjee appeared to be another surprise in the list of TMC candidates as Hooghly LS constituency is going to witness an intense fight between two Bengali actors. Rachana will take on BJP’s sitting MP Locket Chatterjee.

Rachana’s name became a subject of discussion in Bengal’s political landscape a week ago when Mamata appeared on Didi No.1, a popular television reality show the actor has been hosting for almost a decade.

Among the five sitting MPs axed from the list, Nusrat Jahan from Basirhat, where the Sandeshkhali uproar surfaced, and Arjun Singh from Barrackpore, who was defected from the BJP, are prominent.

While addressing the rally, Mamata referred to the resignation of Election Commissioner Arun Goel and hit out at the BJP-led Centre. “The upcoming Lok Sabha polls are central government’s election. The resignation of the Election Commissioner has clearly proved that the central government is conducting the upcoming general elections,” said Mamata.

The following are some of the key candidates from that list.

*Abhishek Banerjee - Diamond Harbour* A two-term MP representing the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency, Abhishek Banerjee serves as the TMC's national general secretary and is widely regarded as the party's second-in-command.

As the nephew of TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Abhishek is the BJP's prime political target, particularly in matters of nepotism and corruption.

Embraced by the party's young brigade, Abhishek has vehemently rubbished the BJP's charges against him and has advocated the implementation of one-individual-one-post within the party and fixing of retirement age in politics.

*Sudip Bandyopadhyay - North Kolkata* Sudip Bandyopadhyay is a veteran politician serving his fifth term as the MP representing the North Kolkata Lok Sabha constituency.

He also holds the position of the leader of the TMC's Lok Sabha party.

Despite his arrest by the CBI in 2017 over alleged non-cooperation in the Rose Valley Ponzi scam case, the 71-year-old leader remains a prominent figure within the party.

However, amid the purported power struggle between the old guards and the young generation, a section of the TMC's young brigade had demanded his exclusion from the candidate list which, evidently, was trashed by Mamata Banerjee.

*Yusuf Pathan - Beherampore* Among the 42 TMC candidates, whose names were declared for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, former cricketer Yusuf Pathan is perhaps the only name in that list who seemed to be the odd one out in terms of being both a greenhorn in politics as well as a resident of outside Bengal.

Pathan, born in Baroda in Gujarat and admired for being an aggressive all-rounder, officially hung up his boots from all forms of cricket in February 2021 after dominating the sports pitch for nearly two decades.

He was fielded from the Congress stronghold of Beherampore which is currently represented in Parliament's lower house by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury who doubles up as the Bengal Pradesh Congress president.

Although Chowdhury is yet to be named as a candidate by the Congress, political observers say Pathan's political fortunes are likely to be severely tested by the heavyweight Congress leader who also happens to be a native of the region.

*Mahua Moitra - Krishnanagar* TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had previously made it clear that she would renominate Mahua Moitra from the Krishnanahar seat following the latter's expulsion from the Lok Sabha in December last year over the cash-for-queries imbroglio and her subsequent ouster from the government accommodation in the Capital.

Moitra, a former investment banker with JP Morgan Chase, is known for her outspokenness and fiery debates in Parliament.

Prior to her getting elected as an MP in 2019, Moitra also served as a TMC MLA from Karimpur in Bengal's Nadia district.

Besides her role in Parliament where she repeatedly questioned the Centre's involvement in expansion of Adani Group assets, Moitra moved multiple lawsuits in the Supreme Court challenging various policy moves made by the Modi government.

She also got dragged into a bitter political controversy following her public remark on Goddess Kaali in July 2022 where she commented "Kaali to me is a meat-eating, alcohol-accepting goddess."

*Saayoni Ghosh - Jadavpur* Actor-cum-politician Saayoni Ghosh replaced TMC's sitting MP and her Bengali film industry colleague Mimi Chakraborty from Jadavpur in the southern fringes of Kolkata.

Ghosh will take on BJP candidate Anirban Ganguly, an important member of the saffron camp think tank.

Ghosh became a part of Didi's core team in January 2021 and unsuccessfully contested from the Asansol South assembly seat where she lost to BJP leader and fashion designer Agnimitra Paul.

Perceived to be close to Abhishek Banerjee, Ghosh succeeded him as TMC's youth wing state president in June 2021 and continues to remain in that position.

Prior to joining politics, during 2015 Shivaraatri celebrations, Ghosh tweeted a picture where a female character was seen putting a condom over the Shivalinga.

She later claimed that the picture was morphed and apologized for the post.

*Kirti Azad - Bardhaman-Durgapur* Former India cricketer Kirti Azad, who was part of the Kapil Dev-led team that won the 1983 cricket World Cup, is the son of former Bihar Chief Minister Bhagwat Jha Azad.

A three-time Lok Sabha MP from Darbhanga on a BJP ticket, Azad was suspended from the saffron party in 2015.

He joined the Congress in 2019 and unsuccessfully fought from Dhanbad in the general elections that year, following which he joined the TMC in November 2021.

*Debangshu Bhattacharya - Tamluk* Trinamool's debutant candidate Debangshu Bhattcharya, the party's state IT cell in-charge, hogged media attention ahead of the 2021 assembly polls for penning the 'khela hobe' (the game's afoot) song and the two words became Didi's favourite idiom for the polls.

Bhattacharya, now among the party's most recognizable youth faces in social media, TV talk shows and public meetings, is contesting from the Tamluk seat, a stronghold of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.

Speculations are rife that BJP may field former Calcutta High Court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay from that seat.

* Kalipada Soren - Jhargram* Instrumental in promoting Santhali across India, Jhargram resident and former bank employee Kalipada Soren was feted with the Padma Shri award in 2022 by the Government of India for his contribution to literature and education.

The 64-year-old political greenhorn, a playwright and author under the pen name Kherwal Soren, is also a two-time recipient of the Sahitya Academy Award.

(With inputs from PTI)