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Trinamool list: Shatrughan, Mahua likely to be retained

By Pradipta Tapadar
March 07, 2024 15:28 IST
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The Trinamool Congress's candidate selection for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls is expected to prioritise the nominee's winnability, public image and sitting MPs' performance, while also reflecting the internal debate on whether experienced leaders should make way for the younger generation.

IMAGE: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with party MP Shatrughan Sinha, in Kolkata on February 2, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

According to TMC sources, the party is likely to retain its sitting MPs for Ghatal, Asansol and Krishnanagar seats.

While actor Dev (Deepak Adhikari) is the incumbent MP of Ghatal, Shatrughan Sinha and Mahua Moitra (recently expelled from the Lok Sabha over a cash-for-query imbroglio) are parliamentarians from Asansol and Krishnanagar respectively.


Significant changes are also planned for nine previously won seats and almost all the 18 constituencies that the party failed to win in 2019.

In 2019, the TMC had won 22 seats whereas the BJP had secured 18 seats.

The ongoing debate within the TMC between the old guard and the new generation is also likely to play a significant role in candidate selection, alongside concerns over the performance of some MPs.

Corruption allegations have made public images of leaders a significant criterion in candidate selection, besides electability.

The party is also likely to announce a significant number of women candidates, maintaining consistency with Mamata Banerjee's policy of offering representation to women leaders.

With the Sandeshkhali developments, where women accusing local TMC leaders of land-grab and sexual harassment charges have put the party in a tight spot, and Banerjee fiercely competing with the Bharatiya Janata Party for securing the loyalty of women voters, a high percentage of women candidates in the Trinamool fray is itself going to be a statement from the supremo, sources in the party said.

A senior TMC leader, speaking to PTI on condition of anonymity, outlined the selection criteria, stating, "While choosing nominees, we have kept four major factors in mind -- winnability, past performance, public image, and age."

"However, there is no specific age bracket, and if the MP is performing well, he or she may not be changed," he said.

With Abhishek Banerjee, the TMC national general secretary, in recent months advocating a retirement age in politics, citing a decline in work efficiency with advancing age, many MPs in the 75-80 age bracket may face the axe, party sources said.

TMC leader Kunal Ghosh, who had asserted that the old guards 'should know where to stop', has been gunning for dropping the party's Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, a three-term MP from North Kolkata, this time.

The 71-year-old MP, however, had declined to attach much importance to such assertions and had earlier stated, "Mamata Banerjee is the TMC supremo and her decision is final. If she thinks someone is old enough to retire, that person will have to go. If our party chief thinks otherwise, he or she will continue working for the party."

Three-term TMC MP Saugata Roy, another party veteran whose name cropped up in the old versus new debate, recently expressed his doubts over whether he would be considered for a ticket this time.

"Electability, performance and image should be the criteria. If a person can perform even at the age of 75 or 80, there is no harm for him to remain in politics," the 76-year-old TMC leader told PTI.

When asked about Abhishek Banerjee's assertion of an age bar in politics, Roy said, "It is an opinion, not the policy of the party."

Senior TMC leaders revealed that the party is likely to change candidates for the Lok Sabha seats of Basirhat, where Sandeshkhali is situated, Jadavpur, Mathurapur and Arambagh, constituencies the party had won in the previous elections.

"In Basirhat and Jadavpur, the performance of two cine stars Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty respectively, were not satisfactory and in Mathurapur, the sitting three-time MP, CM Jatua, is 85 years old. In Arambagh, we had won the seat by a slender margin of 1,100 votes. We may be in trouble there if we don't change the candidate," another TMC leader said.

Last month, Chakraborty had submitted her resignation to the party, stating that politics is not her forte.

"While experience is valuable, it is equally important to assess performance and public perception. We will have a healthy balance between continuity and rejuvenation," the senior TMC leader said.

When questioned about the potential for dissent if a sitting MP is replaced, the TMC leader responded, "Previously, our party relied on specific leaders in certain areas or Lok Sabha seats. However, there is now a parallel leadership in every area who are ready to step in."

Senior TMC leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy told PTI, "There will be new faces, with a potent mixture of the experienced and young leaders. Every seat is important in Lok Sabha, so there will be a balance between both (old and new)."

Echoing similar sentiments, TMC spokesperson Krishanu Mitra said, "What you are calling as an old versus new conflict, I see it as a synthesis. And a progressive party like the TMC will always work for a political line based on the synergy between experiences of different generations through dialectics."

Party sources said that with allegations of corruption plaguing the party, public image would be another important factor in selecting candidates.

Political scientist Maidul Islam felt that the debate over old versus new will significantly influence the TMC's candidate selection.

He remarked, "Apart from this debate, the winnability of candidates will be important. An MP may be winning for the last few terms, but that doesn't mean he or she would repeat the feat this time as well. So in that case, the TMC will have to walk a tightrope."

Suman Bhattacharya, another political analyst, underscored the significance of 'public image' in the TMC's candidate selection process, stating, "With the formidable challenge that the BJP has put up, public image and winnability will be the key criteria for TMC's candidate selection. The party is not in a position to experiment over this old versus new debate at this critical juncture."

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Pradipta Tapadar
Source: PTI© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.