In BJP’s final list for Bengal, a former deputy chief of army, ex-chief economic advisor

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The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded a former deputy chief of army staff and former chief economic advisor as candidates in its final list for the upcoming West Bengal assembly polls.

The party named 11 candidates on Tuesday for the remaining seats including retired Lt Gen Subrata Saha from Rashbehari and Ashok Lahiri from Balurghat in Dakshin Dinajpur district in north Bengal. Saha is a former deputy chief of army staff and Lahiri is a former CEA.

Lahiri was initially fielded from Alipurduar but had to be replaced after protests erupted. The party had to later field a local leader Suman Kanjilal from Alipurduar.

“I had left West Bengal in 1971 (when the Naxal movement was at its peak in the state) as the situation here was not conducive for studies, but I was always mentally present in Bengal… I always had the feeling that I needed to get back to my roots and do some work here,” Lahiri said in an interview to a news agency.

On Tuesday the BJP, however, released the names of 13 candidates, while fielding fresh candidates from Chowringhee and Kashipur-Belgachia in Kolkata. With this the BJP has named all the 294 candidates for the polls which begin from March 27.

The party had to face major embarrassment last week after Sikha Mitra and Tapan Saha, who were fielded from Chowringhee and Kashipur-Belgachia refused to contest polls.

“Mitra and Saha had refused to contest the polls and hence had to be replaced. Later the party’s central election committee decided to field separate candidates. There may have been some communication gap and the party is looking into it,” said a senior BJP leader.

Mitra is the wife of former West Bengal Congress chief Somen Mitra and Saha’s wife is a TMC legislator.

From Kashipur-Belgachia the party fielded its district president from North Kolkata Shibaji Singha Roy; from Chowringhee it fielded Debabrata Majhi.

The party also named at least two Matua candidates – Subrata Thakur from Gaighata and Ashok Kirtonia from Bangaon Uttar, both in North 24 Parganas.

Thakur, is the grandson of Matua matriarch Binapani Devi and the son of former TMC leader Manjul Krishna Thakur. His brother Santanu Thakur is a BJP MP.

The Matua population is estimated at 50 million, of which about 30 million are in West Bengal alone and 15 million are listed as voters. The state’s Matua strongholds including parts of North 24 Parganas, Nadia, Cooch Behar, Dinajpur and Burdwan, have become the centre of struggle for control between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP.

“The BJP may field anyone from anywhere, but their defeat is imminent. Infighting has broken out within the party over selection of candidates. That the BJP is politically bankrupt and has no proper leaders in Bengal has been proved as it had to bring in its central leaders and MPs to fight assembly polls,” said Kunal Ghosh, TMC spokesperson.

The list also put to rest speculation on whether Bollywood star Mithun Chakraborty would be contesting the polls. Chakraborty who recent joined the BJP at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Kolkata also enrolled his name as a voter from Kolkata. His candidature, however, was not announced.

“If the BJP wants it can field Chakraborty in a by-election later on. In 2011 when the TMC came to power Mamata Banerjee did the same thing. She won the Bhowanipore constituency in a by-election,” said Amal Mukhopadhyay, political commentator.

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