NATIONAL

Mamata denies renomination to Sudip Bandopadhyay

KOLKATA, MARCH 3. The Trinamool Congress supremo and Union Coal and Mines Minister, Mamata Banerjee, has denied re-nomination of her one-time supporter, Sudip Bandopadhyay, from the Kolkata North-west parliamentary constituency and instead, fielded the Mayor, Subrata Mukherjee.

Announcing the party's candidates for 27 constituencies, Ms. Banerjee said denial of the seat to Mr. Bandopadhyay should not be seen as "unfair". The party would decide on the candidates for the Jhargram seat in Midnapore district, Raigunj and Darjeeling later.

Ms. Banerjee said she had offered Mr. Bandopadhyay Raigunj, where the Congress has fielded its sitting MP, P.R. Das Munshi, also the party's chief whip in Parliament. "It is up to him (Mr. Bandopadhyay) to accept or reject the offer. But shifting someone from one constituency to another is not unusual," she added.

Within an hour of the announcement, Mr. Bandopadhyay said he would contest from Kolkata North-west as an Independent. "I will contest as Independent from my old constituency."

Ms. Banerjee declined to comment when asked if she would initiate disciplinary action against Mr. Bandopadhyay if he refused to abide by the party decision. But Saugata Ray, a senior party leader and candidate from Diamond Harbour in South 24-Parganas, said he would face expulsion.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Trinamool's ally, will contest the rest of the 42 Parliamentary seats in the State. Relations between the two parties had soured over the past few weeks over seat distribution. The State unit of the BJP has sought the intervention of the party chief, Venkaiah Naidu, to press Ms. Banerjee to concede a few seats of the BJP's choice. But she is still not willing and the impasse continues.

All the sitting MPs of the Trinamool — including Ajit Panja, one-time rebel, Krishna Bose, Nitish Sengupta, Ranjit Panja, Bikram Sarkar, Akbar Ali Khondkar and Ms. Banerjee herself — will seek re-election. The Trinamool supremo will contest from her Kolkata South constituency, where the Congress is planning to field social activist Nafisa Ali. Predictably, today's press conference was dominated by questions relating to the denial of ticket to Mr. Bandopadhyay. At one point, Ms. Banerjee said: "He may contest from anywhere — from the sky or heaven."

Relations between Ms. Banerjee and Mr. Bandopadhyay have soured as the Trinamool chief thought that the latter was trying to get closer to the BJP leadership, especially the Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani. The Trinamool has fielded the former CPI (M) MP, Radhika Ranjan Pramanik, in Mathurapur in South 24-Parganas district. Six women are contesting the poll.