Nayana at the news conference. (Bibhas Lodh)
Calcutta, Aug. 17: Trinamul today fielded MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay’s wife Nayana as its candidate for the Chowringhee Assembly bypoll, bringing her out of an eight-year political hibernation.
The party has named former footballer Dipendu Biswas as its nominee for the Basirhat South Assembly seat, where bypolls will be held along with the Chowringhee constituency on September 13.
The bypoll to the Chowringhee seat was necessitated by the resignation of Trinamul MLA Sikha Mitra, wife of Congress leader Somen Mitra. The Basirhat South seat fell vacant after the death of CPM MLA Narayan Mukherjee.
Nayana, who had been the Trinamul legislator of the erstwhile Bowbazar seat from 2001 to 2006, had withdrawn from active politics after being denied a ticket in the 2006 Assembly elections. Sources said the relations between Mamata Banerjee and Sudip and Nayana had “soured” after Sudip’s expulsion from Trinamul in 2004.
Sudip fell out with Mamata in 2003 following his alleged attempts to bag a berth in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet without her approval. Mamata, who was then part of the NDA government, had not allowed Sudip to become a minister and expelled him from the party in 2004.
Months later, Sudip unsuccessfully contested the Calcutta North West Lok Sabha seat as a Congress-backed Independent. He joined the Congress in 2006 and won the Bowbazar Assembly seat that year. Sudip returned to Trinamul before the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
A Trinamul MLA from north Calcutta said Nayana was fielded from Chowringhee because a considerable portion of the Bowbazar Assembly seat was now part of the Chowringhee constituency following delimitation. “Both Nayana and Sudip had represented the Bowbazar seat and wield clout there,” the MLA said this afternoon.
Nayana told The Telegraph she was considering the Chowringhee fight as a “challenge”.
“It would be wrong to say I have not been politically active for the past eight years. I have been a silent worker of Trinamul since 2006. I am accepting the challenge of winning the Chowringhee seat,” she said.
Trinamul sources said Congress veteran Somen’s performance in the Chowringhee Assembly segment in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year had also played a part in Nayana’s selection.
“Somenda lost the Calcutta North Lok Sabha seat but he took a lead of over 1,500 votes in the Chowringhee Assembly segment. Moreover, Somenda had been the Congress MLA of Sealdah, which is now part of the Chowringhee constituency, for nearly two decades,” a Trinamul leader said.
Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy said at a news conference where Nayana and Dipendu were declared candidates: “Nayana, who had been the Bowbazar MLA, is a formidable candidate.”
The Congress is considering Burrabazar leader Santosh Pathak as its candidate for Chowringhee. Santosh is a two-time Calcutta Municipal Corporation councillor of ward No. 45, which is part of Chowringhee.
Some Trinamul leaders said Dipendu, who is contesting the Basirhat South Assembly seat, was a “lightweight”. Idris Ali, the Trinamul candidate for the Basirhat Lok Sabha seat, had trailed the BJP nominee in the Basirhat South Assembly segment earlier this year. Although Idris won the polls, he trailed the BJP’s Samik Bhattacharya by over 30,000 votes in Basirhat South.
“It would have been better had a man of the soil with organisational clout been chosen as the party nominee for the Basirhat South seat,” a local Trinamul leader said.
Samik could contest the Basirhat South seat, sources said.