“When I say something, I keep my word”: Mamata Banerjee

News Desk: Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee will be contesting the upcoming assembly polls from Nandigram in East Midnapore, she declared on Friday.

The chief minister announced the names of 291 candidates for the 294 assembly seats, leaving three seats in the hilly regions of north Bengal for her “friends”.

“I will be contesting the elections from Nandigram. When I say something, I keep my word,” she said, adding that she will be going to Nandigram on March 9 and filing her nomination on March 10.

In January, while speaking at a public rally, Banerjee had announced for the first time that she would like to contest from Nandigram.

“Bhawanipore is my older sister and Nandigram is my younger sister. I will try to contest from both assembly constituencies. The people of Bhawanipore may feel bad. But I don’t want to hurt them. If I can manage it is okay. But I will contest from Nandigram,” Banerjee said at the rally.

Bhawanipore, in south Kolkata, is Banerjee’s home turf. On Friday, she announced that veteran party leader and state power minister Sovandeb Chatterjee will be contesting from Bhawanipore.

The list declared by Banerjee comprises several new faces including actors and directors from West Bengal’s film industry, sportsmen, singers, former IPS officers, doctors and professors, among others. The list includes 50 women candidates.

“Several existing MLAs, ministers and party leaders could not be given tickets. We had to come up with a mix-and-match of old-timers and young ones. Also, names of those who are above 80 have been dropped because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some MLAs are ailing. We will try to include all these names in the state legislative council,” Banerjee said.

Party leaders said that Banerjee stressed on winnability factor and the clean image of a candidate while choosing the names. The Opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party, has targeted the TMC on the corruption issue.

She also said that while 68 seats are reserved for scheduled caste candidates, she has fielded around 79 scheduled caste candidates. While 16 are reserved for scheduled tribes, she has decided to field 17 such candidates.

This is important because about 23.5% of the state’s population belongs to SC communities and 5.8% to STs. About 7% of the state’s population belongs to the OBCs, according to state government data.

The chief minister also thanked regional parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Shiv Sena which have extended their support to her.

“I thank Sharad Pawar, Hemant Soren, Tejashwi Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav. Arvind Kejriwal is my friend,” she said.

The TMC chief upped the ante against the BJP said that she won’t allow Bengal to be ruled by any outsider.

“I still believe Bengal will be ruled by the people of Bengal. I will not allow Bengal to be ruled by goons from outside. I am not tagging those who stay in Bengal or are coming to Bengal for campaigning as outsiders. But I know that thousands of people from outside the state have entered Bengal and are staying in hotels. Money is being distributed through key persons who are holding constitutional posts,” she added.

She also attacked the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress, claiming that they had joined hands with the BJP and had an “understanding” for seat-sharing.

Dismissing public perception that the BJP is breathing down her neck, Banerjee said, “This is a soft election, a smiley election. We will play, we will fight, we will win.”