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Trinamul searching for Subrata challenger

Calcutta, May 9: A day before Mamata Banerjee was supposed to have finalised candidates for the city civic polls, no one in her ranks appeared willing to take on Subrata Mukherjee, who led the Trinamul Congress in the corporation over the past five years.

Trinamul sources said several leaders, including heavyweight MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, were sounded for ward 87. But no one agreed.

Chattopadhyay, who was twice elected to the Assembly as a Congress nominee from the CPM bastion of Baruipur, is now the Trinamul legislator from Rash Behari. Subrata's ward 87 comes under his constituency. But Chattopadhyay is not too keen on a contest on his home turf. 'No one has yet officially told me to contest from ward 87, where Subrata is a candidate, but party people are hinting that I may be pitted against him. I am in no mood for it. Why are other MLAs not being fielded against Subrata' he asked.

'I cannot afford the big money that he can spend for electioneering,' he added.

Sources said Chattopadhyay was unhappy for not being projected as a candidate for mayor. Former MP Ajit Panja, being fielded in ward 63, is the party nominee for the top job.

Mamata will announce the list of candidates on Wednesday, Trinamul state president Subrata Bakshi said. 'We have certain problems over the selection of candidates. However, we are working overtime to sort them out by tomorrow so that we can announce the final list on Wednesday following a working committee meeting.'

Party sources said Partha Chatterjee, the MLA from Behala (West), was being fielded against the Left Front's candidate for mayor, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharjee, in ward 100.

The Trinamul MLA from Satgachhia, Sonali Guha, will also be contesting the civic polls ' from ward 40.

A leader close to Mamata said she might spring a surprise or two by roping in 'disgruntled' Congress functionaries as candidates. 'Some Congress leaders who do not want the party to share power with the CPM in Delhi have approached Didi for our symbol to contest the elections,' he said.

The BJP, a Trinamul ally, today unveiled its list of 23 nominees independently.

Though state party president Tathagata Roy claimed to have obtained Mamata's 'green signal' before announcing the list, the move did not apparently go down well with key Trinamul functionaries.

'The haste smacks of strained relations with Mamata,' said a senior Trinamul leader.

Sudip Bandopadhyay, the former Trinamul MP who stood against Mukherjee for Calcutta North West in the Lok Sabha polls last May, as a Congress-backed Independent, today said he would not mind campaigning for him if the Congress brass want so.

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