Mamata Banerjee announced her candidates for 291 of the 294 seats in the West Bengal Assembly on Friday, including a large number of women, young first-timers, and local celebrities.

She will herself contest from Nandigram – keeping her promise of returning to the political theatre from where a key road to her march to power began a decade and a half ago.

Three Hill seats, Kurseong, Darjeeling, and Kalimpong will be contested by the TMC’s allies. “We will support them in these seats, and they will support us in the plain areas. Kamtapuri and Rajbanshi leaders have said that they will support us,” the Chief Minister said.

Of the TMC’s 291 candidates, 50 are women, 42 Muslim, 79 SCs and 17 STs. “Sixty-eight seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates but we gave tickets to 79… We have also given 17 tickets to Scheduled Tribe candidates,” she said.

Mamata mocked the extraordinary efforts being put in by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for the BJP in the elections, and scornfully invited the Election Commission of India, which has announced an extraordinary eight-phase poll schedule, to hold the elections “in 294 phases”.

Voting for the first phase will be held on March 27, and for the last phase on April 29. Votes will be counted on May 2, along with those in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

“Khela hobe, dekha hobe, jeta hobe… Khelenge, ladenge, jeetenge (Let the game begin, we will see, we will fight, we will win),” Mamata said at a press conference in Kolkata.

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