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BJP list sticks to star trend

Calcutta, March 8: The BJP today announced the names of another 17 Bengal candidates for the Lok Sabha polls, packing the list with first-timers and celebrities in keeping with a trend set by parties in the state.

The BJP has put up candidates in 34 of the 42 seats in Bengal so far. “The nominees for the remaining eight seats, including Darjeeling, will be announced later,” state BJP president Rahul Sinha said this afternoon.

The BJP list announced today includes singer Babul Supriyo, actors Joy Banerjee and Nimu Bhowmik, and journalist and BJP Rajya Sabha member Chandan Mitra.

Magician P.C. Sorcar Jr and actor George Baker feature on the BJP’s first list of 17. Trinamul has fielded Tollywood A-listers such as Dev and Moon Moon Sen.

“The BJP list may not look as impressive as Trinamul’s, but there is no doubt that the trend seems to be about fielding apolitical candidates and tapping their popularity,” a political scientist said.

While Mitra has been fielded from Hooghly, state BJP general secretary Shamik Bhattacharya will contest from Basirhat. Mitra tweeted tonight that Hooghly was his place of birth.

Twenty-four of the BJP’s candidates are first-timers. Trinamul and the Left have fielded 18 first-timers each.

BJP sources said the central leadership could speak to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung during his trip to Delhi, which began today, before selecting the Darjeeling candidate.

Told that Trinamul had stolen a march on the BJP by fielding celebrities who were more popular than those chosen by the latter, Sinha said: “All these people (selected by the BJP) are known in their respective fields. Besides, we are seeking votes for our prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.”

Supriyo, who will be taking on Trinamul trade union leader Dola Sen and CPM’s sitting MP Bangsha Gopal Chowdhury in Asansol, said he entered the poll fray because of Modi.

“I think India needs a strict government and Modi is very promising. I love the way Modi has handled Gujarat and despite the controversies, has won the trust of the people,” he told The Telegraph.

“I have never been a fan of Mamata Banerjee’s brand of politics.”

Joy Banerjee’s nomination has raised eyebrows both in the BJP and Trinamul as he and his wife Ananya used to attend Mamata’s programmes regularly till January.

Trinamul sources said the actor switched sides to “fulfil his ambition of contesting the elections”.

Joy Banerjee, who will contest from Birbhum, said he had had a “long-standing association” with Trinamul but joined the BJP to “fight for the people”. His immediate fight, however, is against sitting Trinamul MP Satabdi Roy, with whom he had acted in Dena Paona.

Bhowmik will take on sitting Congress MP Deepa Das Munshi in Raiganj.

Two persons from the minority community — former CPM leader Badshah Alam (Tamluk) and Mohammad Alam (Ghatal) — figure on the BJP list. Former IPS officer R.K. Handa will contest from Barrackpore.

MARCH FOR MARCH

Mamata Banerjee and the Left hit the streets on Saturday afternoon to kick-start the election countdown. The only convergence point of the two rallies, otherwise marked by starkly contrasting turnouts, routes and mood, was their ability to cripple traffic in Calcutta

Report by Subhankar Chowdhury and Sushovan Sircar