For a party targeting 23 of West Bengal's 42 Lok Sabha seats, the first list of 28 candidates has come not a moment too soon. In fact, just in time for BJP candidates to file nominations to the two seats going to the polls in the first of seven phases - Alipurduar and Cooch Behar - seats where BJP is expected to put up a strong fight.
But trouble erupted in Cooch Behar as soon as the candidate was named. The BJP district chief's car was gheraoed, when she got off and started walking home, she was heckled and told the candidate must change.
The candidate Nishith Pramanik was a Trinamool Yuva leader till February 28 when he arrived at the BJP headquarters in Delhi and joined the party. The BJP district chief declared she had not suggested him as candidate; BJP headquarters had decided.
Barring the risk of rebellion by old timers, the BJP's first list of 28 is an open invitation to disaffected rival party members to defect. Every leader who quit his former party and joined the BJP in the last few weeks has got a ticket. Soumitra Khan from Bishnupur, Anupam Hazra from Jadavpur, Khagen Murmu from North Malda and Arjun Singh from Barrackpore.
There are 14 seats empty as of yet, awaiting BJP candidates.
Veterans, too have been rewarded. Babul Supriyo will fight for Asansol again. State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh who is now MLA from Medinipur will contest the Medinipur Lok Sabha constituency. Rahul Sinha, veteran party leader and national secretary, will contest Kolkata north. In Kolkata South, Chandra Kumar Bose, grand-nephew of Netaji Subhas Bose, will take on Trinamool's Mala Roy of the Trinamool.
A question mark is hanging over Darjeeling that had elected SS Ahluwalia to give BJP its second MP in 2014. Mr Ahluwalia had won with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's support. But BJP-Morcha equations have since changed. The dominant faction now back Trinamool. Leaders of the other faction are underground because of criminal cases filed against them. They are seeking a stay on arrest from Supreme Court. If they get the stay and return to Darjeeling to fight the polls, then elections in this constituency could get very complicated
The list of 28 came after top leaders examined four rival lists of candidates sent to Delhi from Kolkata, one by Dilip Ghosh, the other by former Trinamool leader Mukul Roy, third by the party organisation and a fourth list by a private company tasked with finding the best bet without fear or political favour, say sources.
Several suggestions made by the private company have been adopted. The most prominent is Dhoot Kumar Mandal, a veteran and higly respected BJP leader in Birbhum district who was sidelined. He has been nominated to the Birbhum seat where BJP Mahila Morcha leader and actor Locket Chatterjee was expected to contest. But she has been assigned the Hooghly seat, again, say sources according to the findings of the private company that examined the best options for the BJP.
Between Friday's first list and the next one, there could be several defections from other parties to the BJP.
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