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Lok Sabha 2019: Pragmatic Mamata attempts course correction in candidate selection

Mar 13 (AZINS) A big part of Mamata Banerjee's public outreach is getting the optics correct. She is particularly keen on projecting TMC as a 'sukhi paribaar' (happy family). What better image management than doing a press conference for candidate selection with sitting MPs who have been dropped from the list. Mamata did precisely that and stressed that the party would fight as one to ensure clean sweep in Bengal.

For Mamata Banerjee, 2019 polls are important for several reasons. Her national ambitions are not exactly hidden and with a hung parliament still a distinct possibility according to opinion polls, Didi would like to win as many seats as possible to become a credible player in Delhi. Hence, apart from 42 seats in Bengal, TMC is also fighting in four other states and UTs. But what is worrying Mamata Banerjee is the rapid strides BJP has taken in the state.

According to C-Voter survey, BJP is likely to get 34% votes, nearly double of what they got in 2014. This is mainly at the expense of CPI(M) and Congress, both of which have been relegated to the fringes of Bengal politics. But if BJP crosses the 30% mark, it will start picking up many seats in triangular contests and is likely to pose a serious threat to TMC in the 2021 assembly polls.

Hence, Mamata Banerjee has used great tactical acumen in candidate selection. There are 17 women out of 42, an impressive 41% in the TMC list. To fight anti-incumbency, 17 new candidates have been given ticket. Several MLAs who have done impressive jobs have been given ticket. MPs like Uma Soren and Partha Sarathi Ray, who failed to impress have been dropped. Moonmoon Sen has been shifted from Bankura to Asansol, where she will face off against Union Minister Babul Supriyo.

Mamata has solved the Darjeeling puzzle by giving the ticket to a GJM member Amar Singh Rai who will fight under the TMC flag. In North Bengal, TMC is well aware of growing BJP clout. Hence the party has chosen senior political operatives, many of whom have come from other parties. To counter Adhir Chowdhury in Baharampur, his erstwhile close associate Apurba Sarkar has been given a ticket. Mahuya Moitra who has impressed one and all in debates has been now given Lok Sabha ticket from Krishnagar, which is a safe seat.

To blunt BJP's inroads within the Matua community, slain TMC MP Satyajit Biswas's wife Rupali Biswas has been given ticket from Ranaghat. Baro Ma's daughter-in-law Mamata Bala Thakur is again contesting from Bongaon. Veteran TMC leader and its face in the business community, Dinesh Trivedi is again contesting from Barrackpore, which is an industry hub.  Satabdi Roy, famous actor and erudite Parliamentarian has again got a nomination.

TMC is expected to win in East Midnapore, but BJP has gained considerable strength in last few years in the district. To counter that threat, the influential Adhikari family has been given two tickets, Sishir Adhikari will fight from his bastion Kanthi and son Dibyendu from Tamluk. Superstar Deb despite his not-so-impressive track record has been re-nominated from Ghatal.

TMC has brought in new faces to ward off BJP threat in Bankura and Jhargram, where BJP did very well in Panchayat polls. In Bankura, veteran leader Subrata Mukherjee has been given ticket. Senior Adivasi leader Birbaha Soren will be fighting from Jhargram.

Despite serving jail time, Mamata Banerjee has reposed her faith in Sudip Bandyopadhyay, who will be contesting from Kolkata North. In Kolkata south, Mala Roy, known for her exemplary work as corporator has been rewarded with a ticket. Mala, till few years back was a vocal Mamata critic when she was in Congress. But now both leaders have patched up and KMC Chairperson Roy has been given the prized nomination after Sanjay Bakshi refused to contest.

But the biggest shock selections are Mimi Chakraborty from Jadavpur and Nusrat Jahan from Basirhat. Both are not 'safe' seats for TMC, and a fierce three-way fight is expected. In that Mamata Banerjee is hoping that the star power brought by both the stars will be enough to get TMC home. The fielding of candidates who were not part of active politics will also keep infighting in check, hopes TMC supremo. Mamata' nephew Abhishek Banerjee expectedly has been re-nominated from Diamond Harbour.

A close analysis shows that Didi has used a stick-and-carrot policy for candidate selection. Those who weren't active in their constituency, those who couldn't check the rise of BJP have been given the boot. Similarly, MLAs who showed promise have been given promotion. Didi has also tried to neutralise BJP's influence among the Matuas, Adivasis and those living in the border areas with clever candidate selections. Now, it is up to the 42 candidates to live up to the immense responsibility given to them.


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