Elections 2024: With TMC’s List, Did Mamata Pull an Ace or Overplay Her Hand?

Not everything seems to be over for the TMC-INDIA alliance as it could be a "post-poll" affair.

6 min read
Hindi Female

Even as the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) announced its list of candidates for all the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal at a mammoth rally in the Brigade Parade Ground on 10 March, the final nail was driven to the coffin of the INDIA alliance in West Bengal.

After months and weeks of dithering and political posturing by both the Indian National Congress (INC) and the AlTC, the end game has finally begun.

Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress supremo nominated Yusuf Pathan – the former cricketer of the Indian national team that won the 2011 World Cup as the candidate for the Berhampore Lok Sabha seat in Murshidabad district. The sitting MP from this seat is the Congress Leader of Parliament (LoP) in parliament Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury – who is also the West Bengal Pradesh Congress chief.

Pathan’s name was read out by Abhishek Banerjee amidst thunderous applause of approval. Kirti Azad is another sports personality of the yesteryears who made it to the list from the Burdwan (North) constituency. Veteran footballer Prasun Bandopadhyay was retained in the Howrah seat.


As Mamata Goes Solo, What Guided Her Picks and Drops?

The INC, however, had tactically kept the candidature for the Berhampore seat vacant when it announced its first list of 39 candidates just a couple of days ago in which largely the Congress bigwigs were fielded. But Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was one exception.

It had stoked speculations that INDIA Alliance possibilities between the INC and the AITC were still open and might be clinched at the last moment as were being done in several other states like the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, the DMK in Tamil Nadu, the Aam Admi Party in Delhi and finally in the talks with Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra.

If no INDIA alliance in Bengal was one of the biggest takeaways from the Trinamool Congress rally, the other significant statement out of the candidate list was the "course correction” by the Trinamool Congress in the aftermath of the Sandeshkhali uprising.

Reshuffles From the Tinsel Town

At least 12 of the 42 candidates are women in Mamata Banerjee's list of candidates for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The party removed its sitting MP from Basirhat – film star and commercial model Nusrat Jahan who had won in 2019 and nominated Haji Nurul Islam in her place. Nurul had earlier contested the seat and was presently a MLA and happens to be a trusted party worker and a seasoned politician from the region.

Nusrat was conspicuous by her absence during the entire period of the Sandeshkhali turmoil and there were questions raised about her role in the constituency.

As complaints against Nusrat gained currency, the film actress responded through her X handle saying: … "As a woman, and as a public representative, I have always followed my party’s guidelines and served the people. With the Sandeshkhali incident raging, our Hon CM has already sent help and necessary steps are being taken…. I have genuinely served the people in my constituency in times of joy, in times of trouble. …. We must stop targeting each other and come together to help create peace and not commotion….STOP POLITICISING,” Nusrat wrote.


The other film star and model to fall off the list was Mimi Chakraborty from the prestigious Jadavpur constituency. It was common knowledge that Mimi Chakraborty herself wanted to opt out of the contest a little ahead of the nomination process and made her submissions before Mamata Banerjee. Didi dropped Mimi Chakraborty and brought in Saayoni Ghosh – a Trinamool Congress youth front leader who was nominated from the Jadavpur seat.

There are more from the silver screen to come in the list like Rachana Banerjee – a popular TV serial and film artist who has been nominated from Hooghly and will be pitted against Locket Chatterjee of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Shatrughan Sinha was retained in the Asansol seat by Didi.

June Malia – another film star, who was a Trinamool Congress MLA from the Midnapore seat has been elevated to the Lok Sabha seat from the same constituency. Similarly, Dipak Adhikari – popularly known as Dev – who had featured in a film with Mithun Chakraborty causing a stir in the TMC has been re-nominated. Dev, however, wanted to drop out of the Ghatal LS seat this time but several rounds of consultation with Mamata Banerjee finally resolved issues he had with the party and he agreed to fight once again.

Apart from the Tollywood celebrities, Parlimentarian Mahua Moitra, the TMC MP suspended from the outgoing Lok Sabha on alleged charges of cash-for-query was renominated by Mamata Banerjee from Krishnanagar seat.

Actually, Mahua’s nomination was s fait accompli as Mamata had earlier blessed her saying she will come back to the parliament with a bigger victory.

Mahua walked the ramp at the brigade on Sunday along with other candidates and it was yet an affirmation of confidence on her by the TMC supremo.


'Probeen Bonam Nabeen’: Will TMC’s Candidature Strategy Reap Benefits?

The other notable reflection in the nomination process of the Trinamool Congress was the candidature of the "Veteran” versus the “Young” candidates of the Trinamool Congress.

A controversy was brewing within the TMC for some time about the need for the old guard to make way for the younger ones. The prime mover behind this concept was Abhishek Banerjee while Didi was opposed to it. She had argued within the party that the Trinamool Congress could not ignore the contributions made by the old leaders in the party and replace them with the newer ones outright.

There seems to have been some truce between the two arguments.

The day’s candidate list included veterans like Sudip Bandopadhyay from Kolkata (North) seat and Prof Saugata Roy from Dumdum. On the other hand, young Turks were reflected by the candidatures of Saayoni Ghosh in Jadavpur, and fresh blood like Debangshu Bhattacharya in charge of the TMC’s IT cell and party spokesman from Tamluk seat.

The BJP LoP Suvendu Adhikari had earlier announced that retired Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay would be contesting from the Tamluk seat for BJP. Should that happen, it would be a gripping contest.


TMC-INDIA Alliance: A Nail in the Coffin in Bengal?

Coming back to the issue of setback to the INDIA alliance, a full-fledged election war is now on between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress on the West Bengal turf – no less fierce and deadly than the one between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress.

Mamata Banerjee’s choice for Berhampore intensifies the mutual disaffection between the two sides and makes the contest in West Bengal three-cornered. The TMC, the BJP, and the third front to be led by the INC combined with CPM and the Indian Secular Front (led by Nausad Siddiqui).

The nomination of Yusuf Pathan however, does not set all speculations at rest.

There were questions from within the Trinamool Congress party about the rationale behind nominating a candidate who was not a son of the soil, and also not a seasoned politician to take on a hardcore veteran Congress campaigner like Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury who had been representing the constituency for more than 20 years now.

Senior leaders within the party say that the acute internal bickering within the TMC in Berhampore-Murshidabd could have been a factor in choosing someone who would appear neutral to all the factions and the sportsman image will inspire a united fight.

The Congress West Bengal president responded to Mamata Banerjee’s announcement as a "big blow" to INDIA. "Despite being an INDIA alliance partner leader, what she did today hit at the very core of her credibility," said Chowdhury. It also showed that she was fearful of ED, and CBI raids and wanted to appease Modi ji at the cost of the INDIA alliance.

However, not everything seems to be over as far as the alliance is concerned. Mamata in her interactions with the media as well as with political parties in recent times indicated that the INDIA alliance as far as the TMC is concerned could only be a "post-poll affair” if the situation arises.

Finally, a couple of sidelights to the nomination process – an IPS officer – Prasun Banerjee got a nomination from Malda ( Uttar) seat. He resigned from the service to join politics just days back.

Two defectors from the BJP to the TMC got nominations – one in Raiganj where Krishna Kalyani defected from BJP and in Ranaghat seat where Mukutmoni Adhikari made it to the list of Trinamool candidates after having defected just two days ago. Adhikari had attended the BJP rally of PM Modi when he came to Krishnanagar recently to address a public meeting.

(The writer is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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