Kolkata: Brushing aside anti-incumbency and a high-pitched opposition campaign on corruption, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday led her Trinamool Congress to a landslide victory on the development plank, decimating the newly cobbled Left-Congress alliance.
In the 294-member house, the Trinamool looked set to finish with 212 seats — substantially more than the two-thirds majority mark of 196, and the 184 seats it had bagged in 2011 when it came to power in alliance with the Congress.
Banerjee, who formed the Trinamool in 1998 by breaking away from the Congress to fulfill her life’s mission of taking on the then entrenched Communist Party of India-Marxist led (CPI-M) Left Front, not only won handsomely with a 25,000 plus margin from Bhabanipur, but also made the Trinamool the only party in the state to emerge victorious in the assembly election by fighting alone since 1962.
Flashing the famed victory sign after the resounding triumph, Banerjee thanked the people and dubbed the Congress-Left alliance as a “blunder”, saying both forces had compromised with their ideologies.
Amid the raucous cheers and loud trumpeting by supporters who had gathered in thousands near her Spartan residence at South Kolkata’s Harish Chatterjee Road, Banerjee kept open speculations of playing a major role in the 2019 general elections saying: “I love my country, though Bengal is my priority. Just wait and see.”
Final results and trends showed the Left-Congress combine finishing well below the three-digit mark. The alliance candidates had won or were ahead in just 77 seats. The Congress seemed to be doing better than the Left by winning or leading in 44 constituencies. Left candidates were in the first position in 32. An independent backed by the alliance also won.
The dismal scenario for the Left-Congress alliance was reflected in its unofficial chief ministerial candidate, CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra suffering a humiliating defeat by over 13,000 votes in Narayangarh. He had been winning from there since 1991.
Mishra, also the leader of the opposition in the outgoing assembly, said the alliance with the Congress “had its faults” and attributed a “tacit understanding” between the Trinamool and the BJP behind the ruling party’s electoral triumph.
Most Trinamool ministers won, including Partha Chatterjee, Amit Mitra and Jyotipriyo Mallik. However, five of their ministerial colleagues including Upen Biswas – a former CBI officer who nailed Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam – bit the dust.
Staving off the strong opposition offensive on graft, five of the six Trinamool candidates seen allegedly accepting money in the video footage of the Narada sting operation also won.
The only exception was Madan Mitra, now in jail in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam. He lost out to his CPI-M rival Manas Mukherjee at Kamarhati.
The alliance put up a spirited fight in some of the north Bengal districts, but was no match for the Trinamool in most districts in south.
In Kolkata, the Trinamool candidates made a clean sweep of all the 11 seats. It also decimated the opposition in South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri.
For the alliance, the silver lining was Murshidabad and Malda districts. In Murshidabad, the Congress-Left Front bagged 18 and the Trinamool four. The Trinamool drew a blank in Malda, with the alliance picking up 11 seats and the BJP one.
The Trinamool also failed to open its account in Darjeeling, where the alliance and the GJM won three seats each.
For the BJP, its state president Dilip Ghosh pulled off a surprise victory in Kharagpur Sadar, getting the better of nonagenarian Congress candidate Gyan Singh Sohanpal, who had won ten terms from the constituency, and had remained undefeated since 1982.