RTI activist, North Bengal honcho, Muslim professor — Trinamool’s 3 new faces for Rajya Sabha


Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress (TMC) is retaining three old hands, but has picked three fresh faces for the seven Rajya Sabha seats that will fall vacant next month in West Bengal.

The Bharatiya Janata Party will contest the seventh seat on 24 July — poll day for the Upper House.

While West Bengal’s ruling party has retained legislators Derek O’Brien, Sukhendu Shekhar Roy and Dola Sen, the three new faces are Saket Gokhale, Prakash Chik Baraik and Samirul Islam.

Newcomer and Right to Information (RTI) activist Saket Gokhale joined the party in August last year.

In May 2023, Saket Gokhale was granted bail in a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) filed by the Enforcement Directorate for alleged crowd-funding and misappropriation of funds. Senior TMC leader Derek’O’Brien had rallied behind him with the party’s support to secure bail for his party colleague.

In choosing Alipurduar district president Prakash Chik Baraik – also a member of the Scheduled Tribe community — the party has signalled that North Bengal remains under focus. Baraik helped TMC gain ground in the 2021 polls from the upper district, which is a BJP bastion.

Incidentally, Alipurduar’s BJP MLA Suman Kanjilal jumped ship to the TMC this February, becoming the central party’s sixth legislator to do so.

The third, Samirul Islam, is a social activist and assistant professor at a Howrah College and president of the Bangla Sanskriti Mancha. He will be the party’s young minority face in the Rajya Sabha.

Islam told ThePrint: “Mamata Banerjee has given me a big responsibility. I will take the issues of Bengal to the Rajya Sabha and be the voice of the people. It’s a very big task and I will start by reading the Constitution in depth.”

Of the Trinamool’s seven seats that will fall vacant, the terms of six — O’Brien, Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, Dola Sen, Shanta Chetri, Sushmita Dev and Congress’ Pradeep Bhattachrya — are ending. The seventh party leader, Goa’s Luizinho Faleiro, resigned from the Rajya Sabha in April this year.

All eyes are now on who the BJP nominates as this will be the first time the party will get a Rajya Sabha representative from West Bengal. The fight for the seventh seat will take place on 24 July, Rajya Sabha’s election day. Three more seats from Gujarat are also falling vacant, including that of Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar.

Also read: Panchayat elections: Repolling underway in over 600 booths across 19 districts of West Bengal



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