In a major embarrassment for the party less than two weeks ahead of the Assembly elections, two persons the BJP named on Thursday as the party's Assembly election candidates from seats in Kolkata refused their candidature, saying they had never joined the BJP in the first place.
Shikha Mitra, the candidate named for Chowranghee constituency in central Kolkata, released a video statement soon after the BJP named her among the 148 candidates announced on Thursday from the party's central office in New Delhi.
“Neither have I joined the BJP nor do I want to contest,” Mitra said, adding, "It's not possible for me to contest on a BJP ticket."
She is the wife of the late Bengal Congress stalwart Somen Mitra and a former Trinamool Congress MLA from the same seat.
Over the past few weeks, reports had been doing the rounds that TMC-turned-BJP leader Suvendu Adhikary was trying to convince Mitra, or her son, Rohan, to contest from the Chowranghee seat.
The other candidate who refused his candidature is Tarun Saha, husband of the TMC's outgoing MLA from Kashipur-Belgachhia constituency, Mala Saha. She has been representing the constituency since 2011 but was denied a ticket this time, as the party fielded Kolkata's outgoing deputy mayor Atin Ghosh from the constituency.
On Thursday, after he was named a candidate by the BJP, Saha told journalists that he was shocked.
"I was busy in the campaign of our candidate Atin Ghosh when suddenly I heard I was named a BJP candidate. I have not joined the BJP. They named me a candidate without even consulting me," said Shah, who has been a veteran corporator in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
The BJP's embarrassment over candidates came following the TMC's. Earlier, the TMC changed its candidate from Habibpur constituency in Malda district a day after naming her, as the party got wind of the candidate's plan to join the BJP. The candidate was unhappy with the seat she was given.
The TMC named a new candidate the next morning, citing the ill health of the previous candidate, who joined the BJP in the evening in Kolkata in seemingly perfect health.
Political observers said such situations of candidates switching party or refusing candidature is unprecedented in Bengal's politics.
The BJP named 148 candidates on Thursday in its fourth list. It has so far named four Lok Sabha MPs and one Rajya Sabha MP (who resigned after candidature), apart from film and television industry stars, successful persons from different walks of life.
The state elections for 294 seats will be held in eight phases between March 27 and April 29.