As All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) Chief Mamata Banerjee today announced her party candidates for Assembly constituencies, she left the three segments in the Hills of Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Kurseong open.
Later, during the announcement of the official candidates of Cooch Behar, Miss Banerjee said: “We have given up the three seats for our friends.” Addressing the Press in Kolkata, Miss Banerjee also mockingly asked someone nearby, “Will you contest from Kalimpong? That seat is still vacant.”
Notably, both the Bimal Gurung and Binoy Tamang factions of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha are politically in league with Mamata Banerjee’s party, but they have not yet finalised the candidates.
Significantly, Miss Banerjee has fielded Prof Om Prakash Mishra for the high-profile Siliguri Assembly constituency. Prof Mishra was defeated by TMC candidate Arpita Ghosh in the Balurghat Lok Sabha seat in 2014 as he contested on a Congress ticket then. Local leaders, especially aspirants like Nantu Paul and Ranjan Sarkar, were apparently upset over the decision to nominate an “outsider” in Siliguri.
On the other hand, almost all elected MLAs and ministers have been given party tickets in Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts. Former North Bengal Development Minister and present Tourism Minister Gautam Deb will contest from his own Dabgram-Fulbari seat in Jalpaiguri district.
North Bengal Development Minister Rabindranath Ghosh will also contest from his own seat at Natabari in Cooch Behar. In Cooch Behar, Paresh Adhikari will contest from Mekhliganj, while Arghya Roy Pradhan was dropped. Though the party has nominated Cooch Behar district president Partha Pratim Roy, it has chosen Mr Mishra from Kolkata as the Siliguri candidate.
One of the aspirants and senior TMC leader in Siliguri Nantu Paul expressed unhappiness over the selection of the candidate “from outside.”
“Siliguri people voted for a TMC candidate in 2011 as Rudranath Bhattacharya was nominated then. But people rejected Bhaichung Bhutia as a TMC candidate in 2016 and Asok Bhattacharya was elected. We will have to think in a different way now,” Mr Paul said.
Among the others, Miss Banerjee has selected Dr Pradip Kumar Barma for the Jalpaiguri seat, Khageswar Roy for Rajganj, Buluchik Barsik for Mal, Joseph Munda for Nagrakata, Mitali Roy for Dhupguri, and Manoj Roy for Maynaguri in Jalpaiguri district. Girindranath Barman has been chosen for the Mathabhanga seat, Binay Krishna Barman for Cooch Behar Uttar, Abhijit Dey Bhowmik for Cooch Behar Dakshin, Partha Pratim Roy for Sitalkuchi, Jagadish Bashunia for Sitai, Udayan Guho for Dinhata and Pranab Kumar De for Tufanganj in Cooch Behar district.