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Congress requests early bypolls

Calcutta, Nov. 27: The state Congress has urged the Election Commission of India to hold “early bypolls” in three Assembly seats to “cash in on the hurt sentiments” of the party rank and file after two MLAs switched to Trinamul “shamelessly to become ministers”.

The Assembly seats of Nalhati in Birbhum, Englishbazar in Malda and Rejinagar in Murshidabad fell vacant after the resignations of Congress legislators Abhijit Mukherjee, Krishnendu Chowdhury and Humayun Kabir.

Abhijit resigned as Nalhati MLA after he was elected the MP of Jangipur, which his father Pranab Mukherjee vacated following his selection as President.

The defection of Englishbazar MLA Chowdhury and Rejinagar MLA Kabir last week has caused “widespread resentment among party workers” state Congress leaders said. The byelections will have to be held within six months.

“Krishnendu and Humayun shamelessly resigned from the party to join Mamata Banerjee’s ministry. We have requested the central election commission to conduct early bypolls to all the three seats so that we can cash in on the hurt sentiments of our party’s rank and file,” state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said this afternoon from Delhi.

Bhattacharya called on chief election commissioner (CEO) V.S. Sampat last night. “I got the impression that the CEO would consider my plea,” the state Congress chief said.

Bengal CEO Sunil Gupta, said: “I have infirmed the central EC that bypolls will have to be conducted in three Assembly seats. Now it is up to the EC to take a decision on the poll date.”

A four-pronged fight is likely to take place in the three seats, with Trinamul, the Congress, Left and the BJP expected to put up candidates. This is the first time in Mamata Banerjee’s 18-month rule that a four-pronged electoral battle is likely to take place.

“In the Lok Sabha bypoll in Jangipur in October, Trinamul did not put up a candidate. “But this time, we will field candidates for all the three seats,” a Trinamul general secretary said.

He said Kabir and Chowdhury would seek a fresh mandate in their old Assembly seats. The Trinamul leader said Biplab Ojha, who had lost the Nalhati civic polls in May, might be fielded from the Assembly seat in Birbhum.

State Congress leaders said junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury and junior central minister for health Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury would decide on the Rejinagar and Englishbazar seats, respectively.

A Congress source said Abhijit’s wife Chitralekha was “one of the contenders” for the Nalhati seat.

The state BJP president Rahul Sinha said the party would contest all the three seats.

An AICC leader said from Delhi this afternoon that the party would begin its campaign on December 8, when Union rural development Jairam Ramesh is scheduled to address a public rally in Lalgarh. The three central junior ministers from Bengal, Adhir, Abu Hasem and Deepa Das Munshi, are expected to be present at the rally.

“We won’t wait for the poll dates to be announced. We want to gear up the organisation much in advance,” the AICC leader said.

The state Congress has asked six general secretaries to “visit every nook and corner of the three Assembly seats to tell people about the steady implementation of central schemes such as the hundred days’ work programme and the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sarak Yojana.