West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday confirmed her candidature from Nandigram seat as she released the list of Trinamool Congress candidates for the upcoming assembly polls for 291 seats with emphasis on youths, minority, women and backward communities.
Three candidates of the Bimal Gurung faction of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), an ally of the TMC, will be contesting from the remaining three seats in Darjeeling.
Affirming her candidature from the high profile Nandigram seat, Banerjee will vacate her traditional Bhowanipore seat in Kolkata, as she threw a challenge to her protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari, who crossed over to the BJP in December.
“I will contest from Nandigram as I stick to my words.
From Bhowanipore constituency, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay will be contesting in the upcoming Assembly elections,” Banerjee said while releasing TMC candidate list for the state polls.
“On March 9 we will release our manifesto. On March 10 I will file my nomination for Nandigram seat,” she told reporters.
In January this year, Banerjee had announced that she would contest elections from the Nandigram seat in Purba Medinipur district.
When asked about Adhikari likely to be pitted against her from the Nandigram, she declined to comment on it.
This will be for the first time that Banerjee will be in the poll fray from Nandigram constituency represented by Suvendu Adhikari in 2016 and another TMC candidate in 2011.
Though Suvendu Adhikari has time and again expressed his desire to take on his former boss directly in Nandigram, the saffron party leadership is yet to a take a decision on it.
Banerjee and Adhikari were the prominent figures of the anti-land acquisition movement in Nandigram in 2007 that ultimately catapulted the firebrand Trinamool Congress supremo to power in West Bengal in 2011 ending 34-year-old rule of the Left Front.
“This time we have stressed on more youths and women candidates. Around 23-24 sitting MLAS have been dropped and there are names of about 50 women, 42 muslims, 79 SC and 17 ST candidates in the list,” Banerjee said.
Exuding confidence of returning to power for the third consecutive time, Banerjee termed it as the “easiest” election the TMC has ever faced.
“This would be a smiley election for us. We would win it,” she said when asked whether this will be the toughest election ever the party had faced since Trinamool Congress inception in 1998.
“After we come to power we will create Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council) to accomodate senior and experienced leaders. We could not accommodate everybody especially those above the age of 80 years,” she said.
Listing out names of candidates, Banerjee sought the blessings of the people of the state and urged them to have faith in her.
“I seek the blessings of people. I appeal to Maa Maati Manush for your faith. Have faith in me, will protect the state and take it to new heights,” she said, turning to the slogan that first brought her to power in 2011.
State Finance Minister Amit Mitra won’t be contesting elections due to poor health, the TMC supremo said.
Purnendu Bose is another elderly minister missing from the TMC list of candidates and so is veteran legislator Jatu Lahiri from Sibpur.
“We will support GJM in the hills and they will support us in the plains,” she said .
Banerjee also challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to deploy as much central force as they want, but the TMC will still emerge victorious.
She also thanked Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Sharad Pawar of NCP for extending their support to TMC.
“After RJD, SP and Shiv Sena, TMC has received support from JMM and NCP for Bengal assembly polls. We would like to thank all of them,” she said.
Though electorally not much relevant in Bengal, the prominent opposition parties- RJD, SP, Shiv Sena, JMM and NCP of Sharad Pawar have prefered TMC to Congress-Left parties and announced their support to Banerjee in the battle royale for Bengal.
Actress Sayantika Banerjee, Koushani Mukherjee, film director Raj Chakraborty along with several other actors and actress have been given nominations.
Cricketer Manoj Tiwari will contest from Shibpur constituency in Howrah district.
Prominent ministers-Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee have been retained from their traditional seats.
Banerjee released her party candidate list from the same lucky room in her Kalighat residence from where she had done so in 2011 and 2016 assembly elections.
In the 2019 general election she had announced candidates names from a different place within her residential premises which proved unlucky for her.
The BJP had won 18 Lok Sabha seats in last Parliamentary poll out of total 42 constituencies in Bengal, only four less than TMC’s tally of 22.