West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is set to contest the Bhabanipur constituency to get elected to the state Assembly, NDTV reported on Friday. Senior Trinamool Congress leader Shobhandeb Chattopadhyay, who won the seat in the recent state elections, resigned from his post as an MLA on Friday afternoon.
“All party leaders discussed and when I heard she [Banerjee] wants to contest from here, I thought I should vacate my seat,” Chattopadhyay told ANI after handing over his resignation to Speaker Biman Bandopadhyay. “Nobody else has courage to run [the] government... It was her seat, I was just protecting it.”
Banerjee needs to get elected from one of the Assembly constituencies in the state, as she lost out to Bharatiya Janata Party candidate and former aide Suvendu Adhikari on the Nandigram seat, even as her party secured an overwhelming majority in the 294-member Assembly. Article 164(4) of the Constitution says that individuals can take oath as a minister even if they are not MLAs, but will have to get elected within a period of six months after being sworn in.
Banerjee had won the 2011 and 2016 Assembly elections while contesting the Bhabanipur seat. In an apparent bid to pose a direct challenge to Adhikari, who defected to the BJP months before the elections, the West Bengal chief minister pitched herself from Nandigram this time. The constituency held its own significance as it witnessed a farmers’ movement in 2007 against the then Left Front government in the state. The movement was one of the major planks that led to Trinamool Congress’ coming to power in West Bengal in 2011. Adhikari, who belongs to a family with a stronghold in Nandigram and the adjoining areas, and Banerjee herself were at the forefront of that movement.
In a close contest, Banerjee eventually lost to Adhikari by a margin of 1,956 votes, though she alleged fraud in counting.
Meanwhile, Chattopadhyay won the Bhabanipur seat defeating his closest rival BJP’s Rudranil Ghosh by a margin of nearly 29,000 votes. Chattopadhyay has been given the agriculture portfolio in the state Cabinet and he will also contest from another seat to return to the Assembly, according to NDTV.