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More women, fewer Muslims: takeaways from Trinamool’s list of candidates

West Bengal Assembly elections 2021: In the candidate list, Mamata Banerjee has tried to find a balance among all sections of society with special focus on women candidates.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata |
Updated: March 11, 2021 8:40:27 am
West Bengal elections, Bengal polls, Trinamool Congress, Mamata Banerjee, Mamata Nandigram, Indian ExpressWest Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announces the Trinamool Congress's list of candidate for the Assembly elections, at Kalighat on March 5, 2021. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Friday announced the full candidate list of her party for the Assembly elections spread over the coming two months. Out of 294 seats, TMC will contest in 291 seats while three seats have been left for its alliance partner Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). Banerjee will contest from Nandigram constituency, this time leaving her Bhabanipur seat for party leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay.

In the candidate list, Banerjee has tried to find a balance among all sections of society with special focus on women candidates. The list includes 50 women candidates (17% of total candidates), 79 SC candidates (27%), 42 Muslim candidates (14%) and 17 ST candidates (5%). The list also includes actors, singers, doctors, sports personalities, writers, former IPS officers and heavyweight party leaders. Leaders above the age of 80 have been excluded.

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While 160 seats have new candidates, there are 114 new faces in the list. At the same time, 28 sitting MLAs, including five ministers (Amit Mitra, Bacchu Hansda, Ratna Ghosh Kar, Rezzak Mollah and Purnendu Bose), have not been given tickets.

Here are the takeaways from TMC’s candidate list:

Focus on women: In tune with the party election slogan ‘Bangla Nijer Meyekei Chay‘ (Bengal wants her own daughter), the TMC has fielded 50 women candidates this time, five more than the 2016 Assembly polls. It is evident from this move that the party is trying to reach out to women voters to take on the BJP. The party has also given a ticket to Sujata Khan, the wife of former TMC leader turned BJP MP Saumitra Khan. At the same time, Ratna Chatterjee, wife of former state minister turned BJP leader Sovan Chatterjee, has been given ticket to contest from Behala Purba, Sovan’s constituency.

Stress on SC/ST communities: This time, TMC has fielded an unprecedented 79 SC candidates and 17 ST candidates, a significant jump on the 68 SC and 16 ST candidates it put up in the 2016 polls. West Bengal has 68 constituencies reserved for SC and 16 constituencies reserved for STs. The move is aimed at wooing the SC/ST communities, including the Matuas, a refugee community which traces its roots to Bangladesh and had shifted loyalties to the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. By giving more tickets to members of these communities, Mamata Banerjee is trying to send the message that her party is inclusive.

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Shedding the Muslim appeasement tag: The TMC has fielded less Muslim candidates this time. In 2016, the party had given tickets to 57 Muslim candidates, while this time the number is down to 42. According to party insiders, this is an attempt to shed the Muslim appeasement tag, a jibe Opposition parties often use to target her. On the other hand, this would help stop polarisation of Hindu votes in Opposition’s favour in constituencies with a high percentage of Hindi-speaking voters.

Countering anti-incumbency: Interestingly, the TMC has 114 new faces to contest in the polls. In addition, candidates in 160 seats have been changed. This is due to the fear of anti-incumbency and to offer better candidates to the voters. In 2006, the erstwhile Left Front government had changed its candidates in 150 seats which helped the party win over 230 seats in the state. Besides, emphasis was laid on bringing in young faces to the party to have a balance between old and new leaders.

Relying on celebrities: Since coming to power in 2011, Mamata Banerjee has always given tickets to members of the Bengali film industry. In most of the occasions earlier, the stars have helped TMC win a large number of seats. Actors Dev, Moon Moon Sen, late actor Tapas Pal, Shatabdi Roy, Mimi Chakraborty, Nusrat Jahan, Debashree Roy and others had won election on TMC tickets. This time too the party has fielded actors Soham Chakraborty, Sayantika Banerjee, Sayani Ghosh, June Maliah, Koushani Banerjee, Kanchan Mallick, director Raj Chakraborty and singer Aditi Munshi to produce a similar result.

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