BJP announces candidate for 13 seats, brings back Ashok Lahiri in poll fray

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(Eds: With additional inputs) Kolkata, Mar 23 (PTI) The BJP on Tuesday brought back former chief economic advisor to the government Ashok Lahiri back in the poll fray by fielding him from the Balurghat seat, even as it announced a list of 13 candidates, including a former senior army officer, for the final four phases of West Bengal assembly polls.

Lahiri was earlier pulled out of the Alipurduar seat in north Bengal after local party workers held protests against his candidature. The BJP replaced him with Suman Kanjilal, general secretary of its Alipurduar district committee.

Many in the BJP see Lahiri as a potential finance minister of the state if the party rides to power, while others speculate that his Bengal stint is a precursor to higher positions at the Centre.

The party continued with its strategy of fielding personalities from different walks of life as it nominated former Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen (retd) Subrata Saha from the Rashbehari seat in South Kolkata.

The saffron party also fielded new candidates from Chowranghee and Kashipur-Belgachia seats, after its earlier nominees had refused to contest.

Nominations were earlier given to Sikha Mitra, wife of former state Congress president the late Somen Mitra, from Chowranghee, and Tarun Saha, husband of TMC MLA Mala Saha, from Kashipur-Belgachia.

In an embarrassment for the BJP, both Sikha Mitra and Tarun Saha refused their tickets and said they did not join the saffron party.

The party now nominated Debrabrata Majhi and Shivaji Singha Roy, the BJP's central Kolkata district president, from Chowranghee and Kashipur-Belgachia respectively.

The BJP has been facing protests and resignations as many of its aspiring old-timers did not find their names in the list of candidates.

Despite protests over new recruits getting more importance than old-timers in the candidates' list, the party gave nomination to Biswajit Das, who was a TMC MLA from Bongaon (Uttar) and joined the BJP some time back. He will contest from the Bagda constituency.

Subrata Thakur, brother of BJP MP Santanu Thakur, was nominated for Gaighata. Subrata in 2015 had unsuccessfully contested from Bongaon Lok Sabha seat during a bypoll.

The BJP list also includes candidates from the three hill constituencies of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.

Darjeeling's sitting MLA and Gorkha National Liberation Front leader Neraj Zimba is the partys candidate for the seat. The BJP nominated Subha Pradhan and Bishnu Prasad Sharma from Kalimpong and Kurseong.

The BJP had earlier announced a list of 279 candidates out of the 294 seats in the state. PTI PNT NN NN