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BJP taps magic and acting

Calcutta, Feb. 27: The BJP today announced the names of 17 Bengal candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, among them a magician, an actor, former ministers, retired IPS officers and the state unit chief, and pledged to field nominees in the remaining 25 seats.

Bengal BJP chief Rahul Sinha said tonight that the party would contest all 42 seats in Bengal. “Our central leadership will announce the names of the remaining 25 candidates on March 8,” he said. At his Brigade rally on February 5, prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had urged the state’s voters to give all 42 seats to the BJP.

Although there had been rumours that the BJP could field candidates in 20-odd seats to keep the door ajar for a post-poll arrangement with Mamata Banerjee, Sinha ruled out such a possibility today.

The list of 17 includes magician P.C. Sorcar Jr, actor George Baker, and retired IPS officers R.K. Mohanty and Sujit Ghosh. Baker will contest from Howrah, a seat from which the BJP had withdrawn its candidate in last year’s bypoll fuelling speculation of efforts to ensure a smooth sailing for Trinamul.

Sources said the decision to field candidates in all 42 seats was an indication that the BJP was planning to cash in on Modi’s popularity, seen as a reason behind the wide array of people agreeing to contest on the party’s ticket. The BJP, which used to struggle to put up candidates in Bengal earlier, received thousands of applications from prospective candidates this time.

According to a survey conducted by ABP News-The Nielsen Company earlier this month, the BJP’s predicted vote share is 12 per cent. The party’s vote share in Bengal usually hovers around 6 per cent.

BJP sources said the party was expecting good results in the Calcutta North, Dum Dum and Krishnagar seats, from where Sinha, Tapan Sikdar and Satyabrata Mukherjee are contesting. Sikdar, who is ailing, and Mukherjee had been junior central ministers.

BJP sources said Sinha’s request that he be allowed to contest from the Calcutta North seat, represented by Trinamul’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay, had been accepted. Somen Mitra could contest the seat on a Congress ticket.

Former BJP president Tathagata Roy will contest the Calcutta South seat, which is represented by Trinamul state president Subrata Bakshi.