SocietyPolitics Sushmita Dev: Trinamool Congress’ Recent Rajya Sabha Candidate From West Bengal

Sushmita Dev: Trinamool Congress’ Recent Rajya Sabha Candidate From West Bengal

Sushmita Dev, who comes from a prominent political lineage, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha for the second time by Mamata Banerjee’s TMC

Sushmita Dev, former Member of Parliament (MP) and former Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Assam, was recently fielded by the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) as one of their Rajya Sabha candidates from West Bengal. On 20th February 2024, the state assembly secretariat declared her as having been elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha along with three other TMC nominees – Sagarika Ghose, Mamata Bala Thakur and Mohammed Nadimul Haque.

Three out of the four (TMC West Bengal Rajya Sabha nominees) are women. Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chairperson) is sending more women to the Parliament. We do not know when the women’s reservation law passed by the Modi government will be implemented but Mamata Banerjee is walking the talk,” Dev was quoted as saying. The official Trinamool Congress X handle (formerly Twitter) also said that the election of these women candidates was in alignment with the party’s “strong women-centric ethos.”

According to Dev, her nomination also marks the first time a politician from the northeast (Assam) has been sent twice to the Rajya Sabha from a non-northeastern state (West Bengal).

Dev began her long political career with the Indian National Congress (INC) and joined Trinamool Congress only in August 2021. Shortly after, she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by TMC in September 2021. She won unopposed, serving a brief period as an Upper House MP till August 2023, before being renominated in February 2024. The seasoned politician is also currently TMC’s national spokesperson.

Beginnings and previous achievements

Sushmita Dev comes from an established political family from Silchar, Assam. Born in 1972, she is the daughter of Santosh Mohan Dev (former Congress MP and former Union Cabinet minister) and Bithika Dev (former Congress MLA). A lawyer by profession, she holds an LLB as well as an LLM degree.

Source: India TV

In 2009, she was elected as the chairperson of the Silchar Municipal Board. In 2011, she was elected to become an MLA from the Silchar constituency as an INC candidate, succeeding her mother Bithika Dev. In 2014, she contested the 16th Lok Sabha elections from Silchar on behalf of INC and won against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Kabindra Purkayastha.

As a Lok Sabha MP, she served on the Committee on Empowerment of Women as well as the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests. She was also a member of the Joint Committee on the Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provision (Amendment) Bill, 2016. Dev also headed INC’s Mahila Morcha.

During the 17th Lok Sabha elections in 2019, Sushmita Dev lost in Silchar to BJP’s Rajdeep Roy. After a three-decade-long association with the INC, she resigned and joined Trinamool Congress in 2021.

My reasons for leaving the Congress were very regional, they weren’t national… See, my fight with the BJP is ideological. So, when I see compromises being made on my ideology and I see compromises being made at individual level at the cost of the party, I don’t sign up for that and I don’t stand up for that,” she reportedly said in a recent interview.

Recent involvements

In January 2022, Sushmita Dev was the only female member within a 31-member Parliamentary committee to review the legal marriageable age for women. Dev said that she had hoped that there were more women MPs on the committee, and said that she would try to ensure that the Chairman of the Committee listens to “every voice across the board.”

Source: Facebook/Sushmita Dev

In July 2023, Sushmita Dev was part of TMC’s five-member fact-finding delegation that was sent to riot-torn Manipur. Ethnic violence and gender-based violence have been rampant in the northeastern state since May 2023 between the Meitei and Kuki communities. She strongly criticised the central government’s inaction on the matter.

The people who are affected are thinking when they will be able to go home. There are so many kids here too. It was necessary for us to meet all these kids who have been displaced from their homes. It is unfortunate that the central government has refused to send a delegation,” she was quoted as saying while visiting a relief camp in Manipur.

Dev also undertook a 10-hour hunger strike in July 2023 to oppose the Election Commission’s delimitation draft in Assam, which would also reduce assembly seats in the state’s Barak Valley. She specifically criticised the use of the 2001 census data as the basis for delimitation instead of the more recent 2021 census.

Addressing her concerns, she urged Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to look into the matter, “He is not chief minister of one party or a particular area. People of Barak Valley also voted him to this position and it is his duty to listen to common voices living in Barak Valley.”

During the 2023 winter session of the Parliament, Dev was also critical of the suspension of several opposition MPs based on allegations of unruliness. Between 14th and 21st December 2023, 100 MPs were suspended from Lok Sabha and 46 from Rajya Sabha – the highest number of suspensions in any Lok Sabha session thus far.

Source: Facebook/Sushmita Dev

The central government introduced and passed various crucial bills in the Lok Sabha during the absence of opposition MPs. This included three new Criminal Law Bills that will replace the existing Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as the Telecom Bill which aims to restructure the regulatory framework for the telecom sector in India. Sushmita Dev termed the functioning of the Parliament in this manner “fascist,” adding that during the Congress-led UPA rule, there were disruptions by BJP MPs but they were not suspended.

As part of a panel discussion in September 2023, Dev opined that women have unique expectations from the government, different to those of men. “There has to be a very intersectional approach to aspects like poverty and conflict, as they affect women differently. Women leaders tend to understand this,” she remarked.

Sushmita Dev’s nomination has come at a crucial time when her former party INC and current party TMC, both part of the national opposition alliance (INDIA bloc), have reportedly not been able to agree on a seat-sharing plan in West Bengal for the 2024 national elections. It remains to be seen how her second Rajya Sabha term impacts regional and national politics.

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