Mamata Banerjee’s decision to nominate former bureaucrat Jawhar Sircar to the vacant Rajya Sabha seat from Bengal initially came as a surprise to the state’s political observers and ruling party leaders, as Sircar, even though a staunch critic of the Narendra Modi government, was never seen hobnobbing with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) or the chief minister.
As the news sunk in, the decision did no longer appear surprising.
Udayan Bandyopadhyay, who teaches political science at Bangabasi College in Kolkata, said that even though Sircar’s name was never speculated, the TMC’s decision did not surprise him.
“I find Sircar a perfect choice for the party that is looking to impress a pan-India population ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Sircar, who is erudite and very articulate in speaking and writing, can serve as an excellent spokesperson for the party and give the TMC mileage at the national level, especially because he already has the reputation of being one of the prominent anti-Modi faces,” Bandyopadhyay said.
Before Banerjee announced Sircar’s name, all the speculations around Rajya Sabha nominations were about Yashwant Sinha, former BJP stalwart who joined the TMC ahead of the 2021 Bengal assembly elections, and Mukul Roy, a former Mamata Banerjee-confident who returned from the BJP to the TMC immediately after the elections.
Two Rajya Sabha seats from Bengal are vacant, in one of which the elections will be held next month. The party is yet to decide on the candidate for the other seat but Sinha’s name has been in discussion.
According to a senior Bengal minister who had no idea about Mamata Banerjee’s consideration of Sircar as the Rajya Sabha nominee, the nomination reflects the party’s increasing focus on national politics.
“Surely, he is not a political person. The party’s experience with sending non-political persons to Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha hasn’t always worked in favour. But this choice definitely reflects how national politics is the party’s focus at present,” the minister said.
One Lok Sabha member said that the party would mostly like to use his oratory, writing and analytical skills to take on the Modi government over policy and ideological matters inside the Parliament and in the national media. “However, the party may also benefit from his wide connections across the country, as he had earned a good reputation as India’s culture secretary,” the Lok Sabha MP said.
Sircar and Banerjee knew each other for many years and enjoyed a good rapport, even though they were not seen in proximity in the public. Sircar is also known to have a good relation with senior Congress leaders.