West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday released the list of ruling Trinamool Congress candidates for all the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, dropping 10 sitting MPs and bringing in 18 new faces.
The development put an end to all speculations over the tempestuous Trinamool Congress supremo yielding any ground on her home turf to the prospective partners of the proposed 'mahagathbandhan', a grand alliance of anti-Bharatiya Janata Party parties, of which she has been one of the most vocal proponents.
She, however, did keep alive the idea when she said the Lok Sabha polls will sound the 'death knell' for the BJP and the Modi government which will be replaced by a coalition dispensation of anti-BJP parties that will create more jobs, bring about peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir and 'freedom from the pervasive atmosphere of fear'.
The list, which is a mix of seasoned political players and greenhorns, has 17 women candidates, five more than the last elections, constituting roughly 41 per cent of the candidates.
Apart from replacing 10 sitting MPs, she announced the names of eight new candidates for seats the TMC had lost in 2014. Of the 42 seats in the state, TMC had won 34.
Besides TMC old timers, the list includes leaders and MLAs from the Left Front and the Congress who had switched over to her party in the last few years.
"Our list comprises both old and new, experienced and greenhorns. Today, we have announced our list for 2019 Lok Sabha candidates for Bengal and some other states. I am all the more happy and proud because 41 per cent of our candidates are women. Trinamools list speaks for itself. Unity in diversity," Banerjee said.
The list includes seven candidates from the Muslim community, the bedrock of her support base, and 12 from the scheduled castes and schedule tribes. Muslims roughly form 30 per cent of the state's electorate.
The dropping of 10 sitting lawmakers and shifting of another to a new seat is being seen as an attempt to stem the infighting in the party.
Among senior leaders who were given the go-by or had 'requested' Banerjee to drop them, is the party's general secretary Subrata Bakshi.
Sitting MPs from seats like Coochbehar, Basirshat, Jhargram, Mednipur, Bolpur, Bishnupur and Krishnanagar were dropped. The BJP has made steady inroads in these places over the last five years, largely due to the infighting in the TMC.
In Coochbehar, the TMC has replaced its MP Partha Pratim Ray with a minister in the erstwhile Left Front government Paresh Chandra Adhikary, who joined TMC last year.
In Muslim dominated Basirhat, the party replaced its sitting MP Idris Ali with actress Nusrat Jahan, a political greenhorn. The TMC is not on a strong wicket in Basirhat
following the communal riots of 2017, which dented Ali's image and helped the BJP milk the situation in its favour. It is now one of the most communally polarised constituencies.
Among another notable omissions was Sugata Bose, the erudite grand nephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the sitting MP from Jadavpur. Bengali film actress Mimi
Chakraborty will be the party's candidate for the seat.
The TMC also replaced its lawmakers in Jhargram, Mednipur, Bankura and Bishnupur, where the BJP had gained substantial ground in the last panchayat polls.
In Bankura, one of the former strongholds of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, TMC MP and yesteryear cinestar Moon Moon Sen was facing anti-incumbency and accusations of neglecting the constituency. Sen has been shifted to Asansol, the seat represented by BJP's Babul Supriyo, a Union minister.
The party has nominated MLA Shyamal Santra and Asit Mal for Bishnupur and Bolpur seats respectively after sitting MPs Soumitra Khan and Anupam Hazra defected to the BJP.
In Krishnanagar, actor and two-time sitting MP Tapas Paul, who was arrested in the Rose Valley scam, had declined to contest. TMC MLA Mahua Moitra has replaced him.
In Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, currently represented by Union minister S S Ahluwalia of the BJP, the TMC joined hands with the Binay Tamang faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
GJM's MLA from Darjeeling Amar Singh Rai will contest the Lok Sabha seat, but on the TMC's election symbol.
In Malda North, the party has nominated sitting Congress MP Mausam Benazir Noor, who had switched over to the TMC in January this year.
Mamata Banerjee's nephew and MP Abhishek Banerjee, Sudip Bandopadhyay, Sougata Roy, Kalyan Banerjee, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi are among the prominent leaders who figure in the list.
The father-son duo of Dibyendu Adhikari and Sisir Adhikari have been renominated from Tamluk and Kanthi constituency in East Midnapore district.
Banerjee said her party would also contest some seats in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and the Andamans.
When asked whether her decision to contest in these states would not put off the potential constituents of the proposed grand alliance, Banerjee retorted, saying: "We are a national party. When Congress is contesting in more than 10 states, shall we not contest in few other seats outside Bengal?"
Banerjee, who has often said she wanted a 'one on one' fight against the BJP, noted her party will contest the polls in these states in consultation with friendly parties.
She said she would ensure that the BJP does not take advantage of the presence of the TMC candidates in the fray.
In Jharkhand, the TMC will contest three seats, and one in the Andamans. In Assam, where it had unsuccessfully fought the panchayat polls, it will field candidates in six seats.
In Bihar and Odisha, the TMC will contest two Lok Sabha seats each.
The party candidates would also try their luck in 10 assembly constituencies of Odisha. The state is having simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls.