New Delhi: The scion of a royal family, a former legislator and the chief of a faction pressing for a separate state of “Greater Cooch Behar” to be carved out of West Bengal. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday declared its picks for biennial elections and a bypoll to the Rajya Sabha to be held on 24 July.
From Gujarat, the party fielded former Kankrej MLA Babu Desai and Kesridevsinh Jhala, scion of the royal family of the erstwhile princely state of Wankaner. While from West Bengal, the BJP nominated Ananta Rai ‘Maharaj’, who currently leads Greater Cooch Behar People’s Association (GCPA) — a faction pressing for a separate state of ‘Cooch Behar’.
Declaration of the BJP’s candidates for the Rajya Sabha polls comes less than 24 hours after Ananta Rai ‘Maharaj’ met Union Minister of State (MoS) for Home, Nisith Pramanik, who is also the BJP MP from Cooch Behar. The two are believed to have discussed a number of issues during the hour-long meeting.
Many BJP leaders from the Cooch Behar region, including Union MoS (Minority Affairs) and Alipurduar MP John Barla, too have been demanding that a Union Territory be carved out of northern West Bengal.
This part of the state is seen as an economically viable region owing to its robust timber and tourism industry.
However, the demands for a separate state to be carved out of West Bengal have been met with stiff opposition from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), which insists that it will not allow the division of the state.
As for Kesridevsinh Jhala, who ascended the family throne in February last year, his father Digvijaysinh was the first environment minister of Independent India.
Babu Desai, meanwhile, hails from the Rabari (cattle-rearers) community and served as an MLA from Kankrej in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district from 2007 till 2012.
Six Rajya Sabha seats from West Bengal, three from Gujarat and one from Goa will go to polls on 24 July. Besides, a bypoll is to be held for a Rajya Sabha seat from West Bengal for which the BJP has fielded Ananta Rai.
Of the 11 Rajya Sabha in Gujarat, eight are currently held by the BJP and the remaining three by the Congress, which has decided not to field any candidates for the biennial elections to the Upper House to be held later this month.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)