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Congress keeps faith in the tried & tested

Calcutta, March 8: The Congress today released its first list of 17 Lok Sabha poll candidates from Bengal, saying the names of the remaining 25 would be announced “sometime next week”.

The first list for Bengal ran along expected lines and included sitting MPs and old party loyalists. Former Trinamul MP Somen Mitra, who returned to the Congress in January, figures on the list.

“I am ready to accept all challenges,” said Mitra, who will contest from the Calcutta North seat against sitting Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay and the CPM’s Rupa Bagchi, the leader of the Opposition in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

Asked why the party did not field celebrities unlike Trinamul and the BJP, Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya said: “We do not believe in nominating celebrities just because other parties have done so. Ours is a political list of people from the organisation.”

Congress sources, however, said the party’s efforts to field celebrities from Bengal had drawn a blank. Bhattacharya had visited Sourav Ganguly’s home and apparently offered him a ticket.

“The old-timers have been chosen in line with Rahul Gandhi’s wish,” an AICC leader said from Delhi. “We want to rejuvenate the Congress in Bengal and so, we don’t want to experiment.”

Six sitting MPs — Adhir Chowdhury, Deepa Das Munshi, A.H. Khan Choudhury, Mausam Noor, Mannan Hossain and Abhijit Mukherjee — have been re-nominated from the seats they hold. The list has four new nominees and five minority faces.

State Congress chief Chowdhury said he was “confident” that former cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin “would contest from Bengal”. Sources said Azhar’s “insistence on a safe seat” had not gone down well with the Bengal unit.

Trade union leader Qumrupzzaman Qumar and youth leader Riju Ghosal will contest the Diamond Harbour and Barasat seats.

South 24-Parganas Congress president Arnab Roy has been fielded from Joynagar and his Birbhum counterpart, Syed Siraj Zimi, from Birbhum.

The Congress also announced its candidates for the Assembly by-elections in six seats.