CPI-M today finalised former Kolkata Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya as a consensus candidate of both the Congress and the Left Front for the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls. CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury today said from Delhi that Bhattacharya is backed by both the parties. After a successful mayoral tenure at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Bhattacharya could not compete for a Rajya Sabha seat from this state on a technicality.

He lost the Lok Sabha election from Jadavpur constituency, once a Left bastion, last year. On both occasions, apart from his party, state Congress leadership had closed ranks to back Bhattacharya. Several senior Congress leaders including Mannan and Pradip Bhattacharya had extensively campaigned in his favour at Jadavpur.

“We have no objection to Bhattacharya becoming a RS member from West Bengal, supported by the Congress and the Left as we need to fight the ruling Trinamul Congress and the BJP together,” a senior Congress leader said. The Congress and the Left have a combined strength of 52 members in the West Bengal Assembly.

Rajya Sabha polls for the five seats of West Bengal will be held on 26 March. The election for the fifth seat will be a litmus test for the CPI(M)- Congress tie-up in the state. On Sunday, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee had announced the names of Arpita Ghosh, Mausam Noor, Dinesh Trivedi and Subrata Bakshi as the party candidates for the Rajya Sabha polls.

According to the distribution of seats in the Assembly, the ruling TMC will get four seats in the Upper House of the Parliament, whereas a joint-candidate of either the CPI(M)-Congress or the TMCCongress will have to win the fifth one. Since the Lok Sabha poll debacle, the CPI(M) and Congress have been united in fighting against the TMC and the BJP in the state.

The fifth seat was held by Ritabrata Bandopadhyay, who was elected as a CPI(M) nominee in 2014, but expelled from the party in 2017. Since his expulsion and post the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the CPI(M)’s West Bengal unit does not have any representation either in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. This has happened for the first time since the party’s inception in 1964. With just eight MLAs, the BJP is not a contender in the Rajya Sabha polls.