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Cong list delay upsets state leaders

- Om Prakash says he wants to contest from Balurghat, but party plans differ

Calcutta, March 17: Several state Congress leaders have said they were upset that the party had been unable to release the final list of 25 candidates for the Lok Sabha polls when rival contestants have begun campaigning in earnest.

The Congress has announced candidates for 17 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal on March 8. On the other hand, the Left, Trinamul and the BJP have announced all the names.

State Congress leaders said “serious discontent” in the party over the choice of candidates must be blocking the selection of the 25 names.

“More than a week has gone since the first list of nominees was announced. Against this backdrop, we are confused about this delay in announcing the other names,” a sate Congress vice-president said this afternoon.

Contacted, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said tonight that the delay over the announcement of the final list was because of “some problems arising over the Dum Dum, Balurghat and Asansol seats”. Another seat where the Congress has been unable to decide a candidate is Hooghly, according to party leaders.

“Barring these three seats, we have almost finalised the list. But I don’t know whether it would be announced tomorrow,” the junior railway minister said over phone from New Delhi.

He will be here tomorrow to chair a meeting with the chief of the Congress frontal organisations such as the Chhatra Parishad, Youth Congress, Mahila Congress and Seva Dal in an initiative to involve them in the campaign. Congress sources said lawyer Arunava Ghosh’s refusal to contest the Dum Dum seat had forced the leadership to hunt for another nominee. Similarly, for the Asansol seat, Katwa MLA Rabi Chatterjee had declined to contest.

In Balurghat, a section of Congress leaders today announced at a meeting that they wanted Om Prakash Mishra to contest from the seat.

Congress sources said tonight that the leadership wanted Mishra to contest the Dum Dum seat instead of Balurghat because of Arunava Ghosh's refusal to contest there. In that case, the leadership is considering South Dinajpur district Congress president Nilanjan Roy as the nominee for the Balurghat seat.

"But I want to contest the Balurghat seat and will not shift to any other seat," Mishra said today. “I intensively campaigned for the last three months in and around Balurghat…. But now I have returned to Calcutta after knowing that there is some problem over the choice of nominee.”

He felt it was an “embarrassment” for him after his name was publicly announced by former state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya and AICC observer Shakeel Ahmed Khan for the Balurghat seat long back.