Bengal RS polls: Trinamool, Congress win unopposed as CPI-M nominee disqualified

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Kolkata, July 31 (IANS) West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress bagged five Rajya Sabha seats, and Congress won one unopposed after the nomination of CPI-M candidate Bikash Bhattacharya was rejected on Monday.

After much drama, the election authorities declared invalid Bhattacharya’s nomination, on the ground that an additional affidavit was submitted only after the 3 p.m. deadline on July 28 – the last date for filing of papers for the August 8 polls for the six seats.

With Left Front-backed Bhattacharya out of the race, all the six remaining candidates were declared uncontested after the expiry of the 3 p.m. deadline for the withdrawal of candidatures on Monday.

It will be the second upper house term for Trinamool leader in the Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien, and two other sitting members Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and Dola Sen.

The maiden entrants into parliament are Trinamool’s Manas Bhunia and Santa Chhetri.

Former state minister Bhunia, who switched over to the Trinamool from the Congress last September, resigned recently from his assembly seat Sabong in West Midnapore district.

Chhetri is a three-time Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) legislator from Kurseong in the northern Bengal’s Darjeeling hills.

It will also be the second six-year Rajya Sabha stint for Congress’ Pradip Bhattacharya.

An angry Left Front legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty termed the election authorities’ decision to reject his candidate’s nomination a “big conspiracy” and said they were consulting their lawyers.

“It was pre-decided it will be cancelled. Trinamool was rattled by Bikash Bhattacharya’s candidature… That it took them 48 hours to take the decision proves there was a lot of merit in our arguments.

“This is unprecedented and we have become a victim of a big conspiracy. We are consulting our lawyers. We must fight upto the last,” said Chakraborty, who is also the state secretariat member of LF major Communist Party of India-Marxist.

The Trinamool, however, said it had nothing to do with the process, and the nomination was rejected by the Election Commission in accordance with existing laws.

“They were given a chance of hearing in accordance with the Representation of the People Act. The returning officer was also present during the hearing and discussed the matter with everyone. Then CPI-M’s Rajya Sabha candidate’s nomination was declared as invalid by the Election Commission as it was not submitted within the stipulated time,” said Trinamool Secretary General Partha Chatterjee.

“How is Trinamool Congress involved in this?” he asked.

Rejecting the CPI-M’s allegation of conspiracy, Chatterjee, also the state Education Minister, accused them of trying to malign the Election Commission by secretly tying up with the BJP.

A controversy emerged after Bhattacharya, a former Kolkata Mayor, filed his nomination on Friday, with the election authorities claiming that an affidavit that was part of the required documents, was received two minutes past the 3 p.m. deadline.

The CPI-M, on the other hand, had claimed the particular affidavit was not part of the set of documents originally sought along with the nomination forms. “When we went to file the nomination papers, we were told to get the additional affidavit,” said a CPI-M leader.

Bhattacharya had then said the additional affidavit was submitted to the returning officer at 2.58 p.m., and not after the 3 p.m.

“Moreover, this affidavit pertains to those who were at some point of time government servants or stayed in a government residence. Neither of these applies to me.”

On Friday, there were arguments and counter arguments between West Bengal Assembly secretary Jayanta Koley – the returning officer for the polls – and the CPI-M leaders about the acceptability of the nomination.

However, no decision was taken and scrutiny was taken up on Saturday. The issue again generated much heat and finally Kolay said the scrutiny would be on hold till 9 a.m. on Monday.

–IANS

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