It is an index to the disorientation of the Bengal Left that it has failed to field a candidate for the Rajya Sabha election on 5 August. Not since the redoubtable Bhupesh Gupta of the undivided CPI stepped into the portals of the House of Elders in 1952 have the communists cut such a sorry figure, with the Election Commission rejecting the candidature of Bikash Bhattacharya on a point of order.
Not that the party was unaware of the 3 p.m. deadline for filing nominations last Friday. While Alimuddin Street claims that the former Mayor of Kolkata and a noted lawyer had filed the papers at 2-58 p.m., it devolves on the party, remarkably astute as it once was, to account for cutting it fine and thus prompting the EC to take a call on the delay and then discard the nomination on Monday ~ 48 hours after it was filed.
The delay becomes still more inexplicable as Bhattacharya, the party’s nominee for the sixth seat from Bengal, was reportedly chatting with the Returning Officer for quite a while and long before the clock struck three. Neither the candidate nor the party have as yet explained why he didn’t file Form 26 and the additional affidavit within the deadline. Submission of this affidavit before an election is mandatory under a Delhi High Court order of 2006.
As a lawyer, Bhattacharya could not have been unaware of the rules of engagement.
By accident or design, there was a mess-up. And the party is accountable for the fiasco not least because the Leftists had once constituted a robust bloc within the Rajya Sabha.
It shall not be easy to digest the fact that the candidature was turned down by EC under the Representation of the People’s Act. Both Trinamul and the Congress must be secretly grateful to the CPI-M for this no-contest scenario. In the net, the five candidates fielded by Trinamul ~ Derek O’Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Dola Sen, Manas Bhuiyan, and Shanta Chhetri (Darjeeling) ~ will be elected unopposed.
In the same privileged category must be Pradip Bhattacharya of the Congress; the Left has given him a walkover. It is hard not to wonder whether this was a tactical ploy of the Bengal lobby.
Though Bhattacharya has claimed that there was “no hidden agenda”, such suspicions must arise in the context of the CPI-M central committee’s decision not to support or take support from a Congress candidate. Unlike Alimuddin Street, the party’s ombudsmen in Delhi have always been loath to sustain a tie-up with the Congress ~ one major factor behind the decimation of the CPI-M in the 2016 assembly election.
The argument of Sujan Chakraborty, the party’s MLA from Jadavpur, that while “our clock showed 2-58 p.m., the Returning Officer’s watch indicated 3-02 p.m.” is facile, considering the fiasco.