Monday, March 14, 2011

Desperate Left to field 150 new faces in Bengal polls

KOLKATA: The Left Front, undefeated in the last seven assembly elections in West Bengal, released its list of candidates on Sunday with 150 new faces that did not include a single retired bureaucrat or film star. Instead, it`s fielding young teachers and politicians, making a generational shift that ruthlessly turfs out 80 MLAs, apart from weeding out all tainted members. 

The list released for the elections starting April 18 may seem drab, and no match to the proposed star-studded Opposition team, but it has a surge of fresh faces and minority leaders who have led theLeft Front from the street. It includes 40% more Muslim candidates than in 2006. 

No less than nine ministers, including four junior ministers, were dropped. Rabindranath Ghosh of Forward Bloc and CPI`s Nandagopal Bhattacharjee are out on account of ill-health. Senior CPM minister Partha De from Bankura volunteered to skip the polls and tourism minister Manab Mukherjee relinquished his claim on Beliaghata to make way for Anadi Sahu. 

The changes are expected to blunt the sting of the Opposition campaign on the ``lifestyle of ruling Marxists``. Leading the overhaul is chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, CPM candidate from Jadavpur. 

Most senior ministers — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Nirupam Sen, Surjyakanta Mishra, Asim Dasgupta, Abdur Rezzak Mollah, Asok Bhattacharya and Naren Dey — will contest from their previous constituencies. 

Housing minister Gautam Deb was shifted to Dum Dum from his home turf of Basirhat North. Dum Dum is considered safe and Left leaders would use Deb for campaigning, a source said. 

The Left introduced new faces in almost all the 14 seats in the Maoist-hit Jangalmahal. Sushanta Ghosh, the minister leading the CPM campaign in Jangalmahal, will contest from Garbeta in West Midnapore. Four ministers — Kshiti Goswami, Debesh Das, Kironmoy Nanda and Anadi Sahu — were shifted to new constituencies after their previous seats got wiped out in delimitation. 

The longest-serving Speaker of Bengal Assembly, Hashim Abdul Halim, decided to quit electoral politics on health grounds. His son Fuad Halim, a doctor, will contest from Ballygunge. Deputy Speaker Bhaktipada Ghosh and Left Front chief whip Mohammed Masiah were denied tickets. 

CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had given indications of the change: he wasn`t ready to carry the ``tainted baggage`` anymore. Discredited people like former Haldia strongman Laxman Seth, Lagandeo Singh from Howrah and Majid Ali from Sashan in North 24-Parganas were dropped on grounds that candidates who lost in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls should not contest this year.Mohammed Salim and Rabin Deb, who also lost in the Lok Sabha polls, became victims of this formula. Seth`s wife Tamalika Ponda Seth will contest from Mahishadal. 

The Left reverses in the seven districts of South Bengal began after Muslims — mainly farmers and educated youth — dumped CPM in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and rallied with Mamata Banerjee against the land acquisition bid in South 24-Parganas, East Midnapore, North 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly. The CM announced a slew of measures, included backward Muslims under the OBC category, and promised them 10% reservation in government jobs.

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