Kolkata: In a state where political parties have traditionally refrained from fielding bahubalis, 33-year-old BJP candidate from West Bengal's Coochbehar Lok Sabha seat, Nisith Pramanik, stands out with the dubious distinction of as many as 11 criminal cases against him.
According to a mandatory affidavit filed by Pramanik along with his nomination papers, he declared he has 11 cases pending against him, his first brush with the law being in 2009.
Pramanik, who joined the saffron party on February 28, was earlier with the Trinamool Congress before being expelled for alleged anti-party activities.
Though West Bengal has a history of poll-related violence, political parties in the state have generally kept bahubalis (musclemen) away from public glare to go along with the Bengali 'bhadralok' image of the educated middle-class.
The latest criminal case filed against the BJP candidate was on March 16 at Dinhata police station in Coochbehar district for cheating and criminal breach of trust.
A resident of Dinhata town near the Bangladesh border in North Bengal, Pramanik has a murder charge pending against him in a case registered there in April 2018.
He has also been accused of rioting on two occasions and attempt to murder.
A day before he joined the saffron party, a criminal case was filed against Pramanik on February 27, accusing him of making preparation for dacoity and possessing illegal arms.
Rabindranath Ghosh, Trinamool Congress' Coochbehar district president and a minister in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet, said, "The BJP has picked up someone who was thrown out by my party for indulging in criminal activities."
Pramanik, who faced opposition from a section of BJP workers in the constituency following his nomination on the ground that he is an outsider, however, claimed that the charges were false and "the people of Coochbehar will give the answer to the accusations against me in the EVMs".
In his affidavit, the BJP candidate also said he has been accused under the Explosives Act and even booked for outraging the modesty of a woman.
Pramanik, who has cleared the state's secondary level examination, is a businessman by profession, and said in the affidavit that he has Rs 2.25 lakh cash in hand. He has movable and immovable assets of Rs 41.94 lakh and Rs 43 lakh, respectively.
Ghosh said he has written to the Election Commission, seeking Pramanik's arrest on the basis of the several criminal charges against him, claiming he would be a threat to holding peaceful elections in the Coochbehar constituency.
BJP's state-in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya said the party is not worried about the allegations against Pramanik. "TMC goes on making such accusations, neither we are perturbed by it, nor is our candidate," he said.
Meanwhile, TMC candidate for Coochbehar, Paresh Chandra Adhikary, said in his affidavit that he has no criminal case pending against him.
Adhikary, a four-time MLA of the All India Forward Bloc, a constituent of the Left Front in the state, joined the Trinamool Congress in August 2018.
He won the Mekhliganj assembly seat in Coochbehar in 1991, 2001, 2006 and 2011 and was the state's food minister in the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cabinet from 2006 to 2011.
Adhikary, 66, who has cleared the higher secondary examination, is a pensioner having Rs 4.21 lakh cash in hand, according to the affidavit filed by him along with the nomination papers.
He has immovable assets of current market value of Rs 1.48 crore and movable assets worth Rs 1.18 crore.