NEW DELHI: On the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Brigade Ground rally in Kolkata, the BJP on Saturday declared Trinamool Congress (TMC) turncoat Suvendu Adhikari to take on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from his Nandigram constituency in the West Bengal Assembly election, allotting another seat of Nandakumar to his brother Nilanjan Adhikari.
BJP general secretary Arun Singh on Saturday declared 57 party candidates against 60 seats in the first and second phase of polls on March 27 and April 1 respectively, saying that the list was finalised by the Central Election Committee (CEC), attended among others by the Prime Minister, two days ago. The party left three seats in the first two phases for an ally.
The BJP is fielding former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh from Debra against former IPS officer Humayun Kabir of Trinamul, while ex-cricketer Ashok Dinda was given the party ticket from Mayna and and Dr Harekrishna Bera from Tamluk.
The Adhikari brothers are to contest in the second phase of the election. Suvendu (50), who was elected to the Lok Sabha as a Trinamul candidate and then served the Mamata government as transport and water resources minister, had won the Nandigram seat in 2016 against Abdul Kadir Sheikh by a margin of 1.73 lakh votes. Mamata (66) will take on him in his own forte, declaring herself on Friday to contest only the Nandigram seat and not two seats as speculated.
Hours before release of the first list of the Bengal candidates, the BJP enrolled former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi (70), an MBA, as its member in the presence of party president J P Nadda and union ministers, weeks after he formally announced in the Rajya Sabha to quit the Trinamool Congress.
Trivedi, who was having his third term in the Rajya Sabha until resignation last month, had joined politics in Congress in Gujarat only to shift to the Janata Dal to be its Rajya Sabha member from 1990-96 and had the second term in 2002-08 as a Trinamul MP.
Unlike the Trinamool Congress fielding 40 women candidates, the BJP's first list has just seven women out of its first list of 57.