KOLKATA: A known activist against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Saira Shah Halim, the daughter of former deputy chief of Army staff, lieutenant general Zameer Uddin Shah, and niece of actor Naseeruddin Shah, will contest the April 12 Ballygunge assembly by-election in Kolkata for the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M).
The party made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon, turning the by-poll into a high-profile affair as Halim will be contesting against singer-turned-politician and former union minister of state Babul Supriyo, the nominee of Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee. Supriyo joined the TMC in September last year after he was dropped from the union government.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not named its candidate for Ballygunge till Wednesday evening.
“I am proud of my father and my uncle but the family identity is incidental for me. I always worked for the people, took part in movements against the CAA and NRC and helped my husband run dialysis and blood donation camps. People in the Ballygunge constituency know that I will not change my ideology,” Halim told HT on Wednesday evening.
Her huband Dr Fuad Halim is a CPI(M) leader, also known for running health camps and low-cost dialysis clinics for the poor. He is the son of former assembly speaker Hasim Abdul Halim.
“Though I campaigned for my husband in the last assembly polls this is my introduction to electoral politics. I am overwhelmed, nervous and excited at the same time because there are big players involved. All I have is good will. I hope Ballygunge will take the right call. People in the constituency have seen me as a social worker and activist,” Halim added.
The TMC won 215 of Bengal’s 294 assembly seats last year while the BJP wrested 77. The CPI(M) and the Congress could not win any seats. The Ballygunge seat in south Kolkata fell vacant after the death of minister and veteran leader Subrata Mukherjee in November.
Saira Shah Halim’s father, retired lieutenant general Zameer Uddin Shah, last served as the deputy chief of staff of the Indian Army. After retirement, he served for some time as an administrative member on the bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal and as vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University.
Ballygunge is not the only place where high-profile candidates will be contesting on April 12.
Mamata Banerjee announced on Sunday that former BJP union minister and veteran actor Shatrughan Sinha will contest the Asansol Lok Sabha seat in West Burdwan district that Supriyo vacated after joining her party. Supriyo had won the Asansol seat for the BJP twice since 2014.
The CPI(M) on Wednesday fielded Partha Mukherjee, a popular trade union leader in the Asansol industrial belt as its candidate. The BJP has not announced the name of its candidate yet.