Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee has announced the names of Arpita Ghosh, Mausam Noor, Dinesh Trivedi and Subrata Bakshi as the party candidates for the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls. She said that in keeping with her "constant endeavour" towards women's empowerment, she was proud that half of the TMC nominees for the March 26 polls were women.
While Noor lost from the Malda Uttar seat in last year's Lok Sabha polls, Arpita had unsuccessfully contested from Balurghat and Dinesh Trivedi from the Barrackpore constituency. Bakshi did not contest from Kolkata Dakshin, the seat he had won in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. TMC sources said Mamata's decision to nominate two women for the Rajya Sabha polls was part of her objective to bring more women in parliamentary politics and delegate responsibility.
The election for the fifth seat will be a litmus test for the CPI(M)-Congress tie-up in the state. According to the distribution of seats in the West Bengal Assembly, the ruling TMC will get four seats to the Upper House of Parliament, whereas a joint candidate of either the CPI(M)-Congress or the TMC-Congress will have to win the fifth one.
The Congress had earlier taken the TMC's support for the elections of their candidates Pradip Bhattacharya and Abhishek Manu Singhvi to the Rajya Sabha. Since the Lok Sabha poll debacle, the CPI(M) and Congress have been unitedly fighting against the TMC and the BJP in the state.
The fifth seat was held by Ritabrata Bandopadhyay, who was elected as a CPI(M) nominee in 2014, but was expelled from the party in 2017. Since his expulsion and post-2019 Lok Sabha polls, the CPI(M)'s West Bengal unit does not have any representation either in the Lok Sabha or in the Rajya Sabha. This has happened for the first time since the party's inception in 1964. With just eight MLAs, the BJP is not a contender in the Rajya Sabha polls.
In the midst of a growing rift among Trinamool leaders, Mamata is likely to face another internal challenge with the announcement of names. Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, many of the TMC leaders had expressed their resentment when Mamata announced the list of 42 candidates. She had dropped 10 sitting MPs to induct 18 new faces. At the time, senior party functionaries like Soumitra Khan, Anupam Hazra and Arjun Singh had openly rebelled and switched over to the BJP.