Mamata Banerjee to contest Bhabanipur bypoll; BJP meet on nominee tomorrow


Guwahati: The Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Sunday announced that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would contest the Bhabanipur Assembly by-election on September 30 even as the BJP said it would convene a meeting of its state leadership on Tuesday to finalise its candidates for the three by-polls.

Sources said the BJP would have a difficult task selecting its candidate for the Bhabanipur poll, with some of its leaders reportedly believing that it is a lost cause. The TMC has fielded Jakir Hossain and Amirul Islam from the seats of Jangipur and Samserganj in Murshidabad district. All eyes are on the Bhabanipur by-poll as Banerjee has to win her traditional seat to remain the chief minister. She lost the Assembly election from Nandigram in Purba Medinipur to her bête noire Suvendu Adhikari by 1,956 votes.

A few weeks after the results were declared on May 2, Bhabanipur MLA and state minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay vacated the seat to allow Banerjee to get elected to the Assembly and retain her post.

Shortly after the Election Commission (EC) announced the by-poll on Saturday, the ruling party started campaigning for Banerjee. Banners and wall graffiti have cropped up in the Assembly constituency declaring the TMC chairperson the daughter of Bhabanipur. On Sunday, while on her way to the Salt Lake stadium to inaugurate the Durand Cup, the chief minister stopped in the area to interact with a few party workers canvassing for her.

The EC notification for the Bhabanipur by-poll will be issued on September 6 while September 13 is the last date for filing nomination. The candidates’ papers will be scrutinised on September 14. The last date for withdrawing nominations is September 16. The votes will be counted on October 3.

Meanwhile, asked about the party meeting on Tuesday, BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said the final decision lay with the central leadership. “I am not the right person to say who will contest against Mamata Banerjee. We have convened a meeting on Tuesday to discuss this. But I can say this that we will contest the by-poll with the same enthusiasm we had in the Assembly election,” he added.

Sources in the party said that some of the names being considered were former Meghalaya Governor Tathagata Roy, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation’s (SPMRF) Director Anirban Ganguly who unsuccessfully contested the state election on a BJP ticket from Bolpur, and former IPS officer-turned-party leader Bharati Ghosh.

“The party has yet to finalise the [Bhabanipur] candidate’s name and it is premature to draw any conclusion as of now. Some names are being considered. Concrete discussions will be held at our meeting on Tuesday,” said a senior BJP leader. Another source in the BJP claimed that some of its leaders were not willing to contest the Bhabanipur by-poll as they believe that the battle is lost.