Kolkata: Facing its toughest electoral battle in 34 years, the ruling Left Front in West Bengal on Sunday dropped nine ministers and a sizable number of sitting MLAs in the list of candidates announced for the April-May Assembly polls.
The list, which has a blend of experience and youth, shows that a little over 60 per cent of the 230 Left Front sitting MLAs, a majority of whom belonged to the CPI(M), have been denied tickets for the crucial elections to the 294-member House.
There are 149 new faces in the list of candidates as well as 46 women candidates the highest ever. 56 Muslims are also in the fray.
"The ministers who do not figure in the list are needed for strengthening the party organisation given their seniority in politics," chairman of the Left Front committee and member of the CPI(M) politburo Biman Bose, who released the list in a press conference, said here.
Bose denied that the ministers' performance has anything to do with the denial of tickets.
"We felt the need for a reshuffle so that some of our comrades can be further utilised for important work. We also want to add new blood and believe that renewal should always take place," Bose explained.
Reacting to the LF's list, Trinamool Congress termed the release as its moral victory. "It is a moral victory for Trinamool Congress as the Left Front has changed candidates in 149 seats out of fear, but this will not help it to avoid defeat in the upcoming elections," Partha Chatterjee, Leader of the Opposition, said.
He said by giving a considerable number of tickets to the SC and ST, women and minority candidates, "the Left Front has suddenly remembered them at the time of exit. For so many years these people were a forgotten lot, but their sudden elevation in status will not be able to win the hearts of people."
The Left Front swept the polls in 2006 winning from 235 constituencies, but thereafter its electoral fortunes dwindled suffering humiliating defeats to the Trinamool Congress-Congress combine in the Lok Sabha battle and in subsequent state-wide civic polls and Assembly by-elections.
Many of the candidates who will be contesting in the coming elections for the first time are a little over 40 years of age. Seven of the candidates are below 30 years.
None of the candidates who had lost in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls was given ticket. Such a formula sealed the chances of some CPI(M) heavyweights - namely Mohammad Selim, Robin Deb and Amitava Nandy.
Of the 292 candidates announced, the CPI-M will field 210, Forward Bloc 34, RSP 23, CPI 12, WBSP 5, RCPI, MFB and DSP 2 each and RJD and Biplobi Bangla Congress one. The state has 294-member Assembly.
Announcing the list after a crucial LF meeting which ratified the names of candidates, Bose said nominees for Serampore in Hooghly district and Kalimpong in Darjeeling district would be announced later.
The minister who have been denied tickets this time are - Manab Mukherjee, Partha Dey, Nandogopal Bhattacharjee, Bankim Ghosh, Rabin Ghosh, Benoy Krishan Biswas, Rabindranth Hembram, Yogesh Chandra Barman and Tapan Roy.
Assembly Speaker H A Halim and Deputy Speaker Bhaktipada Ghosh as well as LF chief whip Syed Masiha have decided not to contest on health ground, Bose said.
Many of first-timers who will be contesting in the six-phase election, starting April, are a little over 40 years. Seven are below 30 years.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been renominated from Jadavpur.
Prominent among the Left Front candidates are ministers Nirupam Sen (Burdwan-South), Surya Kanta Mishra (Narayangar), Ashok Bhattacharya (Siliguri), Kanti Ganguly (Raidighi), Abdul
Rezzak Mollah (Canning-East) and Debesh Das (Entally).
Constituencies of some ministers have been changed which includes that of Goutam Deb, who will contest from Dum Dum.
Fuad Halim, son of Speaker H A Halim, will contest from Ballygunge.
In the list, 56 Muslims are also in the fray. Bose said the election manifesto of the Left Front would
be released shortly.