Close to ten days before the Rajya Sabha election on 26 March, the remarkable feature in the perspective of West Bengal must be that the names of the “freshers”, so to speak, are confirmed. The other critical facet is that the tie-up between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress has fructified with the smooth election of Mr Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, former Advocate-General, to the House of Elders.
The attempt by the Trinamul Congress, pre-eminently Mamata Banerjee, to scupper his prospects by backing Dinesh Bajaj, the Independent nominee for the fifth seat, has come a cropper. The strategy has hit the reefs with the State Election Commission rejecting the candidature of Bajaj due to what it called “irregularities over his nomination”. In the event, it has been smooth sailing for Mr Bhattacharya. His entry to the Rajya Sabha must be mildly satisfying to the CPI-M which doesn’t boast a single member in Parliament, having drawn a blank in the Lok Sabha election of 2019 ~ a painful denouement for what once was an important party.
Initially, the State Election Commission also had an issue with the nomination of Trinamul’s Mousam Noor. As it turned out, she was given the nod after the SEC’s hearing on Tuesday went in her favour. Her candidature was opposed by the Left on technical grounds; her nomination papers didn’t mention her middle name. Furthermore, she missed the commission’s 48-hour deadline to upload on its website the details of legal cases against her. With the SEC’s eventual approval, Trinamul was able to get all its four nominees elected unopposed, notably Subrata Bakshi, Dinesh Trivedi, Arpita Ghosh and Mousam Noor.
It was smooth sailing for the Trinamul candidates who have made it to the Upper House on the basis of 49 first preference votes in the West Bengal Assembly, indeed the figure that is needed to get elected. At another remove, the uncontested election of Mr Bhattacharya has ended the recent speculative drama over a contest for the fifth seat. Indeed, there was speculation that Trinamul had reached a tacit understanding with the BJP to thwart the CPIM nominee’s election.
In his moment of victory, Mr Bhattacharya has exposed the fundamental shortcoming in such a strategy if indeed there was one ~ “The victory vindicates that despite all-out efforts by the state’s ruling party in sync with the BJP to upset the applecart of the Left’s secular democratic candidate for the fifth seat by taking recourse to horse-trading and other illegalities, we have been able to unmask their design by staying on the legal path. Bajaj was fielded against me as I was the candidate of the secular alliance.” The outcome of the fifth seat, therefore, is a morale booster for the CPI-M.