One of the candidates is Lt Gen Subrata Saha (Retd), former Deputy Chief of Army Staff.
New Delhi: As the elections to the 294 Assembly seats of West Bengal start, The Sunday Guardian looks at some of the most educated and accomplished candidates who have been fielded by the Bharatiya Janata Party to take on the ruling Trinamool Congress. The BJP has fielded at least seven such persons as their candidates from different seats. Among the names featuring on the list of BJP’s “talented” pool of candidates are Lt General (Retd) Subrata Saha; former Economic Advisor to the Government of India, Ashok Lahiri; eminent scholar, Dr Anirban Ganguly; scientist and professor, Dr Gobardhan Das; and eminent journalists such as Swapan Dasgupta and Rantideb Sengupta. * LT GEN (RETD) SUBRATA SAHA: Member of the National Security Advisory Board and former Deputy Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen (Retd) Saha is contesting on a BJP ticket from the Rashbehari constituency in south Kolkata.
Saha was born in Kolkata to a Bengali family and had done his schooling from the Sainik School in Purulia, after which he went on to do his graduation from both the Staff College, Camberley in the United Kingdom, and from the Army War College in the United States. During his academic years in the UK, Saha was adjudged the Best Overseas Student at Staff College, Camberley and awarded the Gold Medal at Higher Command Course.
He is also a PhD holder in “irregular warfare”. As part of the Indian Army, Saha worked in the conflict regions of Kashmir for a very long time and is known to have a very deep understanding of Kashmir issues. He has also served as the Brigade Commander on the LoC in High Altitude, as Battalion Commander in Counter Terrorism in Assam, Company Commander in Counter Terrorism in Punjab and for six months at Siachen Glacier in the early days of the Glacier War in 1986.
Saha has also received multiple awards for his bravery and exemplary service in the Indian Army. He is the recipient of the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Yudh Seva Medal and Vishist Seva Medal.
Saha is also often credited with having pushed for the “Make in India” initiative within the Indian Army and had also established the Army Design Bureau for Make in India for the Army. He was also responsible for perspective planning, force modernization and capability development of the Indian Army.
* ASHOK LAHIRI: Ashok Lahiri, BJP’s candidate from Balurghat constituency in Dakshin Dinajpur, is the former Chief Economic Advisor to Government of India and a renowned economist. He is currently serving as the member of the 15th Finance Commission.
An accomplished economist, Ashok Lahiri has served in the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Manila, as the Executive Director, Chairman of Bandhan Bank and Director of National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP). He has also had stints with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in Washington D.C.
Lahiri was born to a Bengali family in West Bengal and passed most of his childhood in Bengal. He did his higher education in the Economics department of the Presidency University (earlier Presidency College) in Kolkata. He later moved to different countries to carry on with his research and higher studies in economics.
Ashok Lahiri was earlier pitched as the BJP’s candidate from the Alipurduar constituency in North Bengal, but was later removed following massive protests by local BJP leaders. He was later announced as the party’s candidate from the Balurghat seat.
Top BJP leaders that this correspondent spoke to, said that Lahiri could well go on to become the Finance Minister of the state if the party comes to power and, therefore, the party had to find him a safe seat to contest.
* ANIRBAN GANGULY: Director of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (SPMRF), the think tank of the BJP, Dr Anirban Ganguly has been fielded by the party to contest from the Bolpur seat in Birbhum district.
Unlike Ashok Lahiri and Subrata Saha, who until earlier this month were apolitical, Ganguly has always been inclined towards the right wing of the political spectrum and has been a student of political science and international relations. He had been an active member of the party and is also the National Co-In-Charge of the Library and Documentation Department of the BJP and Member of the Policy Research Department of the Party.
Anirban Ganguly is also a scholar of civilisation, history, politics and culture. He is also a Member of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), Ministry of Human Resources Development, Member of the Indian National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO (INCCU) MHRD, GoI, Member of the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, Society, Ministry of Culture, GoI, Member of the Governing Board of Auroville Foundation (MHRD), Member of the Visva-Bharati Samsad (Court), Santiniketan.
As part of his early education, he studied at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry and holds a Masters in International Relations, a post-graduate diploma in Mass Communication & Journalism and a PhD in Education from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
* GOBARDHAN DAS: Dr Gobardhan Das, senior scientist, is currently working at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU’s) Special Centre for Molecular Medicine. He has been fielded by the BJP to contest from the Purbasthali Uttar seat in Bengal’s Purba Burdwan district.
Gobardhan Das is an accomplished scientist having an experience of over 19 years in the field of medicine and science. He has done his PhD from the Institute of Microbial Technology, India in 1997. His thesis for his PhD was on immunological basis of susceptibility and resistance in animal models of tuberculosis.
He did his post-doctoral training at the Prof Charles A. Janeway laboratory at Yale University School of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the United States.
* SWAPAN DASGUPTA: Swapan Dasgupta has been an eminent journalist who has served in several leading publications of India. He has served in editorial positions of leading English dailies like The Indian Express, The Times of India, The Statesman and India Today, among others.
Dasgupta, who is a Padma Bhushan awardee for his contribution in the field of literature and education, was born to a Bengali family in Kolkata. He has attended some of the premier schools of Bengal, like St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, and La Martiniere Boys, Kolkata. He has done his college from India’s top college, St Stephen’s College, Delhi. He, thereafter, went on to earn an MA and PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
With a keen interest in politics, he has always been known to be a right-leaning ideological person, right from the days of Margaret Thatcher when he was doing his studies in London. A fluent writer in English language, many academicians have credited him to be one of the most influential and prominent centre-right public individuals in Indian polity.
Swapan Dasgupta was nominated by the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee to the Rajya Sabha in April 2016. His term was to continue till 2022. However, on 16 March 2021, he resigned as a member of the Rajya Sabha after the BJP fielded him to contest from Tarakeswar seat in West Bengal.
* RANTIDEV SENGUPTA: Rantidev Sengupta, born in North Kolkata in 1952, had studied in St Pauls Mission School in the city and, thereafter, went on to study at the Goenka College of Commerce. He passed his MA in Journalism from Calcutta University. Sengupta was involved with politics since his student life and had been a part of the RSS for a very long time.
He began his journalistic career with a magazine called Paribartan and then later on, went on to serve as the Editor of a leading Bengali daily Bartaman. Currently, he is Editor of the Bengali magazine, Swastika.
Sengupta has been fielded by the BJP to contest from the South Howrah constituency in Bengal.
Top Bengal BJP leaders that this correspondent spoke to said that the party has fielded these “talented” and eminent candidates keeping in mind the structure of the government that would be formed by the BJP, when the results for the Assembly elections are declared.
“Giving tickets to such candidates is a part of our strategy. We need these highly qualified and talented people to be part of our government if the party comes to power. They add an extra layer of cream to the government that the BJP will form. These apolitical personalities are our resources, apart from the political people we have as our candidates. Moreover, it can be said for certain that Ashok Lahiri would be the Finance Minister of Bengal if BJP comes to power, SwapanDa can be given the Education portfolio, Lt Gen Saha would also be given a good Cabinet rank, maybe Bengal’s Home portfolio. So, as you can see, our candidate selection has been very thoughtfully made,” a top BJP leader from Bengal told The Sunday Guardian.