The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal is not getting a walkover in the Rajya Sabha elections on February 7 with the Congress deciding to back sitting RS member Ahmad Saeed Malihabadi as an Independent nominee, whom the Left is also likely to support.
The development has evoked sharp reaction from the TMC which said it exposed the “weakness and mutual links between the Congress and the CPI(M).”
“Malihabadi has approached the Congress seeking the party’s support to his candidature and the party high command has asked us to extend support of the Congress MLAs to him,” state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacherjee told PTI here on Monday.
Mr. Bhattacherjee had earlier recommended Malihabadi’s name to the party high command as a possible Independent candidate whom the Congress and the Left could support.
With the Congress high command giving its nod to the name, there will be a total of six candidates in the fray for five Rajya Sabha seats from the state.
TMC has already announced four candidates including actor Mithun Chakrabarty while the CPI(M) has decided to field Ritabrata Banerjee, general secretary of the CPI(M)’s student wing, SFI.
Mr. Malihabadi could be the sixth candidate acceptable to both Congress and Left Front.
A former editor of Azad Hind newspaper, Mr. Malihabadi is a sitting Rajya Sabha member from Bengal elected in 2008 as an Independent supported by both the parties.
Senior Trinamool leader Saugata Roy told PTI, “What we were suspecting, has happened. The Congress and the CPI(M) have come together to support Malihabadi for the fifth seat.”
Mr. Roy, a TMC MP, said, “Their intention is to block a TMC candidate who was sure to win unless the Congress and the CPI(M) came together.
“I still hope that some Congress MLAs who are really opposed to the CPI(M), will rebel against the party’s decision and vote for the TMC candidate,” he said.
But with the Congress having 39 MLAs in the Assembly, ten short of the required 49 for a candidate to steer clear, a move began from both the Congress and the CPI(M) to field an Independent candidate acceptable to both camps.
As the Left Front has 61 MLAs, it would have an extra 12 first preference votes which it can transfer to another candidate, even after casting all 49 first preference votes to Ritabrata Banerjee.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose had earlier said, “We will field one candidate for the Rajya Sabha election and support the Congress-nominated Independent candidate for the other seat.”
The ruling Trinamool has 187 MLAs, when the golden number for getting elected is 49, and as per its strength the TMC is in a position to send three party candidates to the Rajya Sabha safely.
Besides Mr. Chakrabarty, painter Jogen Chowdhury is among candidates of the Trinamool Congress. The third Trinamool Congress candidate is K D Singh, who was an RS MP from Jharkhand and had resigned to contest from West Bengal.
The party’s nominee for the fourth seat is a city journalist, Ahmed Hassan, who is expected to face a contest, considering the party-wise break-up in the Assembly.