Hailing the coming West Bengal Assembly elections as the “first and last opportunity” for people to topple the Left Front government and bring about a “change,” Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee announced here on Friday the names of 228 party candidates – leaving 64 seats for the Congress and two for the Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist).

Ms. Banerjee, however, asserted that in case the electoral pact with the Congress failed to materialise till March 21, she would release the names of her party's candidates for the 64 seats reserved for the Congress.

She said 64 seats were left for the Congress on the basis of her talks with that party's leadership and that she would be “happy” if the Congress designated nominees for the seats.

Why the delay?

Pointing out that she had waited for 18 days and discussed the seat-sharing issue with the Congress leadership at various levels before releasing the list, Ms. Banerjee said: “Although the Congress has not officially declared that the door to the alliance is closed, I wonder the reason behind the delay [to clarify whether the alliance will materialise or not]. It is a big party and we respect it. Ours, maybe, is a smaller party but it is the main party in West Bengal.”

‘Vital juncture'

Appealing to all those “intent to fight against the Communist Party of India (Marxist)” to cast his or her vote for the Trinamool Congress, she said the contest was taking place at a “vital juncture of history” where a single vote could decide the State's political future.

The candidate list appeared to be well-balanced with candidates from various walks of life, religion, age and gender finding their way in it.

Glamorous and well-known names on the list include Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry general secretary Amit Mitra; the former State Chief Secretary, Manish Gupta; dean of North Bengal Medical College Rudra Narayan Bhattacharjee; national award-winning actor Debashree Roy and three former IPS officers among others.

For minority vote-bank

In an apparent bid to woo the vast minority vote-bank that is a key element to the parties' success at the polls, Ms. Banerjee said she had nominated 42 minority candidates in the list and added that the second list of 64 candidates had the names of another 24 minority nominees.

Women candidates, too, have got a fair share in the current list with 34 nominees.

Admitting that four to five sitting Trinamool MLAs could not be accommodated in the list, Ms. Banerjee said that could either be adjusted in the second list or rewarded in some other way for their services.