Battle for Bengal

No former bureaucrats or Tollywood stars. The Left Front has packed its candidate list with die-hard politicians and young Left-leaning teachers and professors, bringing in a new generation for the bumpy ride ahead. It has ruthlessly weeded out tainted names and included 40% more Muslim candidates than in 2006. The list released on Sunday may read drab, no match for the proposed star-studded opposition team, but it has a stream of fresh faces and minority leaders, who have led the Front from the street. The new generation has replaced more than 80 sitting MLAs. One reason why the ruling Left did not give tickets to the intelligentsia when it had nominated filmstars such as Anil Chatterjee earlier could be that this time Left leaders are not very sure about the prospects of the battle ahead. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the CPM candidate from Jadavpur, is leading the team. As many as nine ministers are not on the list. Rabindranath Ghosh of Forward Bloc and CPI’s Nandagopal Bhattacharjee are seriously ill. Senior CPM minister Partha De from Bankura volunteered to opt out. Tourism minister Manab Mukherjee has relinquished his claim to Beliaghata to make way for Anadi Sahu. The change is likely to blunt the sting of the opposition campaign on the “lifestyle of ruling Marxists”. Most senior ministers — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Nirupam Sen, Surjyakanta Mishra, Asim Dasgupta, Abdur Rezzak Mollah, Asok Bhattacharya and Naren Dey — are fighting from their own constituencies, though many of them seem to be losing seats after the Left reverses in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The only exception is Gautam Deb, who has been shifted to the new Dum Dum assembly constituency from his home turf, Basirhat North, throwing up a surprise even among party insiders. The Left Front has brought in new faces in almost all 14 constituencies of the Maoist-dominated Jangalmahal. Kshiti Goswami, Debesh Das, Kironmoy Nanda and Anadi Sahu are the other four ministers to have shifted to newer patches as their home constituencies have been wiped out during the delimitation exercise.

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