(From left) Jogen Chowdhury, KD Singh and Ahmed Hassan
Calcutta, Jan. 19: The Trinamul Congress today named an artist, an industrialist and an editor to run for the Rajya Sabha elections next month, again casting the net outside the political pool and raising a tantalising question by fielding one candidate beyond its means.
Trinamul has now four candidates in the field: artist Jogen Chowdhury, industrialist K.D. Singh, editor Ahmed Hassan and actor Mithun Chakraborty whose name was announced yesterday.
The party has enough votes to ensure the victory of three candidates. The fourth will fall short by four votes — which brings up the question what the Congress will do.
If the Congress does not field a candidate in the February 7 Rajya Sabha polls, the fourth Trinamul candidate will also be through. But the Congress has the option of supporting an Independent candidate who stands a chance if the Left transfers its additional votes — as the two sides did in 2008.
The decision will be taken by the Congress high command, which was yesterday conveyed through Rahul Gandhi the Bengal unit’s deep aversion to any adjustment with Trinamul on the Lok Sabha elections.
Whichever way the Congress high command — no stranger to overruling the state unit — decides on the Rajya Sabha polls that precede the general election, it will be seen as a pointer to what lies ahead.
For the moment, Trinamul chose to focus on how the party has consistently looked beyond traditional politics — a theme that has gained currency after the ascent of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi — to fill Rajya Sabha slots.
Of the eight Trinamul Rajya Sabha members from Bengal, only two are career politicians, while all the six Left MPs sent to the upper House from Bengal fall in the same category. A journalist was also elected in 2008 on a non-Trinamul ticket but the apolitical nominee was supported by both the Left and the Congress.
Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy, one of the traditional politicians representing Bengal in the Rajya Sabha, announced the three “apolitical” names today. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced Mithun’s name yesterday.
Industrialist Singh is a sitting MP from Jharkhand but will give up his remaining one and a half years and contest afresh from Bengal.
“The four names reflect Mamata’s preference to send a cross-section of people to the upper House. She does not like to confine herself to only politicians,” said Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, the second “politician” among the Trinamul Rajya Sabha MPs.
Trinamul sources said that Mamata had chosen artist Chowdhury because of his long association with the movement she had launched to bring about change in Bengal.
Chowdhury said: “The Lok Sabha is traditionally political. The Rajya Sabha is culturally oriented. This is an honour. The presence of culture is necessary. But this will not be full-time for me. I shall continue to paint.”
The founding fathers had debated long about the need for the Rajya Sabha, also known as the council of states. The House was originally meant as a sobering force removed from day-to-day politics but it eventually became a shelter for mostly those who were reluctant — or incapable — to fight popular elections.
What the Constitution makers had in mind were persons with high calibre.
N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, a member of the drafting committee of the Constitution, had explained: “What we really achieve by the existence of this second chamber is only an instrument by which we delay action which might be hastily conceived, and we also give an opportunity, perhaps, to seasoned people who may not be in the thickest of the political fray, but who might be willing to participate in the debate with an amount of learning and importance which we do not ordinarily associate with a House of the people.”
Artist Shuvaprasanna, another member of Mamata’s culture clan, said: “It’s good that Jogenda has been chosen as Trinamul’s nominee for the Rajya Sabha seat. He is senior to me and was associated with Mamata in her relentless struggle against the Left to bring in paribartan for Bengal.”
Singh, the industrialist, said: “I shall resign as Rajya Sabha member from Jharkhand despite one and a half years still being left to complete my tenure. I would try my best to serve the Ma-Mati-Manush of Bengal as a Rajya Sabha member.”
Hassan, editor of the Bengali daily Kalam, said: “I am very close to Mamatadi and Mukul Roy and I am happy.”
Asked if Hassan will win if the Congress fields a candidate, Trinamul leader Roy said: “We will have 45 surplus votes after getting our three nominees elected in the Rajya Sabha and I am hopeful that our fourth nominee would also win because we shall have the highest number of votes.”
A candidate needs 49 votes to be declared elected from the 294-member Bengal Assembly. The figure is arrived at by dividing the number of Assembly seats by the Rajya Sabha vacancies plus one. For Bengal, it will be 294/6.
Trinamul has the support of 192 MLAs — which means three of its candidates will be elected by exhausting 147 votes. The party will then be left with 45 surplus votes — four short of the required 49 to see the fourth candidate through.
The Left, with 60 legislators, will have 11 surplus votes after getting one candidate elected. The Congress has 39 legislators. If the Left gives its surplus votes to the Congress or vice versa, one candidate can be elected with 50 votes.
If the Congress does not field a candidate, the remaining nominee with the highest votes will win, which, in this case, can be Trinamul’s fourth candidate, an Assembly official said.
Asked if the party would field a candidate, state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said the decision would be taken after “talking to the high command”.