Facing its toughest electoral battle in 34 years, the ruling Left Front in West Bengal on Sunday dropped nine ministers and a sizable number of sitting Members of Legislative Assembly in the list of candidates announced for the April-May assembly polls.
The list, which has a blend of experience and youth, shows that a little over 60 per cent of the 230 Left Front sitting MLAs, a majority of whom belonged to the Communist Party of India - Marxist, have been denied tickets for the crucial elections to the 294-member House. There are 149 new faces in the list of candidates as well as 46 women candidates.
"The ministers who do not figure in the list are needed for strengthening the party organisation given their seniority in politics," said chairman of the Left Front committee and member of CPI-M politburo Biman Bose.
Bose denied that the ministers' performances had anything to do with the denial of tickets.
"We felt the need for a reshuffle so that some of our comrades can be further utilised for important work. We also want to add new blood and believe that renewal should always take place," Bose explained.
Reacting to the LF's list, Trinamool Congress termed the release as its moral victory.
"It is a moral victory for Trinamool Congress as the Left Front has changed candidates in 149 seats out of fear, but this will not help it avoid defeat in the upcoming elections," said Partha Chatterjee, Leader of the Opposition.
He said by giving a considerable number of tickets to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, women and minority candidates, "the Left Front has suddenly remembered them at the time of exit... For so many years these people were a forgotten lot, but their sudden elevation in status will not be able to win the hearts of people."
The Left Front swept the polls in 2006, winning from 235 constituencies, but thereafter its electoral fortunes dwindled and it suffered humiliating defeats to the Trinamool Congress-Congress combine in the Lok Sabha battle and in subsequent state-wide civic polls and assembly by-elections.
Many of the candidates who will be contesting in the coming elections for the first time are a little over 40 years of age. Seven of the candidates are below 30 years. None of the candidates who had lost in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls were given tickets.
Such a formula sealed the chances of some CPI-M heavyweights -- namely Mohammad Selim, Robin Deb and Amitava Nandy. Of the 292 candidates announced, the CPI-M will field 210, Forward Bloc 34, Revolutionary Socialist Party 23, Communist Party of India 12, West Bengal Socialist Party 5, Revolutionary Communist Party of India, Marxist Forward Bloc and Democratic Socialist Party 2 each and Rashtriya Janata Dal and Biplobi Bangla Congress one. The state has a 294-member assembly.
Announcing the list after a crucial LF meeting which ratified the names of candidates, Bose said nominees for Serampore in Hooghly district and Kalimpong in Darjeeling district would be announced later.
The minister who have been denied tickets this time are - Manab Mukherjee, Partha Dey, Nandogopal Bhattacharjee, Bankim Ghosh, Rabin Ghosh, Benoy Krishan Biswas, Rabindranth Hembram, Yogesh Chandra Barman and Tapan Roy.
Assembly Speaker H A Halim and Deputy Speaker Bhaktipada Ghosh as well as LF chief whip Syed Masiha have decided not to contest on health grounds, Bose said.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been renominated from Jadavpur.
Prominent among the Left Front candidates are ministers Nirupam Sen (Burdwan-South), Surya Kanta Mishra (Narayangar), Ashok Bhattacharya (Siliguri), Kanti Ganguly (Raidighi), Abdul Rezzak Mollah (Canning-East) and Debesh Das (Entally).
Constituencies of some ministers have been changed which includes that of Goutam Deb, who will contest from Dum Dum. Fuad Halim, son of Speaker H A Halim, will contest from Ballygunge. In the list, 56 Muslims are also in the fray. Bose said the election manifesto of the Left Front would be released shortly.