The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM ready, rivals fighting

Calcutta, Jan. 15: As the Opposition struggled to cobble together an alliance to take on the CPM, the ruling party gave another instance of its organisational strength today saying it would be ready with the list of Assembly poll candidates by the month-end.

The names of Left Front nominees are likely to be announced on February 16, a day after the revised electoral rolls are published.

'We shall complete the process of choosing candidates for the Assembly elections by the end of January. The list of Left Front nominees will be unveiled as soon as the revised rolls are published,' Jyoti Basu said this afternoon.

The CPM has called a state committee meeting on February 16 to ratify the names.

Leaders of its allies ' the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc ' have been told to send their lists to front chairman Biman Bose by February 11.

Neither the Congress nor Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress has been able to make much headway in drawing up a list of candidates.

Their leaders are still uncertain about how many seats they will contest as the possibility of a pact, tacit or otherwise, floats in the air.

'We are really in disarray. No decision has yet been taken on what should be our strategy,' state Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya said.

Basu said there would be a sizeable number of new faces to replace the 'old guard'.

But CPM insiders said transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and school education minister Kanti Biswas, with whose work the chief minister was said to be unhappy, will be re-nominated.

'Although we have a provision to drop those who have retained a seat on four consecutive occasions, such rules are relaxed in some cases,' land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Molla said.

Both Chakraborty and Biswas are four-time winners.

Higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty and former minister of state for cottage and small-scale industries Narayan Biswas are not likely to be as lucky.

Chakraborty had faced flak from Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for failing to introduce subjects like IT and management in colleges.

Biswas was put behind bars in connection with rioting in North Dinajpur's Gangarampur in 1989.

Molla has been elected from Canning (East) in South 24- Parganas seven times. 'I will contest again, if nominated,' he said.

A peasant leader, Molla is crucial to the government's land acquisition plans to facilitate setting up of industries.

There would be at least eight new faces among the 23 CPM candidates in South 24-Parganas, he said.

Bloc's Kamal Guha, the legislator from Dinhata in Cooch Behar who has often embarrassed the government by slamming its policies, said: 'I've decided to opt out this time.'

Irrigation minister Amalendra Roy, of the RSP, is likely to be dropped.

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