On Thursday, after the West Bengal Election counting started, it wasn't long before it was clear that Mamata Banerjee, leader of the Trinamool Congress and the current Chief Minister of the eastern state would win. And, win she did with a whopping number of over 200 seats. TMC's predicted wins in the state kept increasing by the minute. Congress aligned with Left staggered behind and BJP wins were barely there.
Banerjee, the stormy petrel of West Bengal politics, once again proved a master strategist decimating the new Left-Congress combination and the BJP all of whom sought to checkmate her return to power. The 61-year-old feisty leader, who had single-handedly wrecked the red bastion in West Bengal in 2011 ousting Left Front's uninterrupted 34-year-old rule, was unfazed by the coming together of Left parties and their once bitter rival Congress ahead of the Assembly polls.
Banerjee's win in the state did not come as a surprise. Most of the exit poll surveys by regional and national channels have given TMC a clear majority in the 294-member Assembly. Most exit poll surveys conducted by regional and national channels have given TMC a clear majority in the 294-member Assembly. She also faced an all out attack by BJP which fielded top party stalwarts led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, a battery of Union ministers and state leaders for campaigning but they finally found that there was no way to stop her Trinamool Congress from romping home to victory.
Soon after the predictions were more or less set in stone, Banerjee addressed the media to express her gratitude. Banerjee also however made a few scathing remarks about the Congress-Left alliance in the state — "If a party loses its ideology, it loses everything," she said and added that the CPM-Congress have lost everything. "We were victorious with two-thirds majority. Despite the Congress and Left alliance, we won. Families came together to help us win, they stood in the queue and in the heat for hours to vote. We fought alone this time. Last election, Trinamool had won 184 seats in alliance. This time the Opposition was united against us," she said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, campaigning against TMC had said that Mamata would destroy Bengal — "God has sent a message that the bridge collapsed and gradually she will destroy the whole of Bengal. Bengal’s glory won’t return until it is being freed from the two (TMC and Left)," he said.
On Thursday, Modi called Mamata and tweeted at her official handle:
Spoken to @MamataOfficial ji & congratulated her on the impressive victory. My best wishes to her as she begins her 2nd term.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 19, 2016
Banerjee thanked him for his wishes and in her address to the press, she said that a campaign of slander and lies led to the sweeping victory of her Trinamool Congress in assembly polls.
"People do not like such campaigns. There were all sorts of alliances against us. But people have ultimately made their choice...This is for the first time in 49 years that such a massive mandate has been given to a single party," said Banerjee.
Trinamool nominee Nayna Bandyopadhyay retained Chowrangee constituency, defeating her nearest rival Somen Mitra of the Congress by over 13,000 votes. The other winner declared so far is also from Trinamool, as Shashi Panja successfully defended Shyampukur constituency, defeating Piyali Pal of the All India Forward Bloc by over 13,000 votes.
A street fighter
An excellent orator, Banerjee had coined a catchy slogan "Ma, Mati, Manush" (Mother, Land and People) before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and played on the anti-incumbency factor after more than three decades of Left rule and the creeping disillusionment among several sections, like Muslims, to decimate the Left in partnership with the Congress.
Known for her humble lifestyle, the seven-time MP successfully sold a vision of development, cashing in on the deep resentment among the middle classes and unemployed youths, promising jobs and development. Her nondescript residence — a tiled single-storey house in a dingy lane close to the Kalighat temple — and equally simple attire comprising cotton saris, jhola bags and cheap hawai chappals, endeared her to the masses. Even after the win on Thursday, Mamata maintains this 'simplicity' as she says, ""I am not a VIP , I am an LIP. Please consider me as an LIP, and I want to continue as a commoner."
It has not been an easy journey though for Mamata who turned her call for 'Poribortan' (change) into a reality with Congress, her ally then, throwing its full weight behind her. Her energy, charisma and political astuteness made Banerjee one of the few mass leaders in the country.
Congress and Left Alliance
The unlikely alliance of the Left with Congress has its roots in the 2004 UPA government. But it was short lived, as the Left chose to withdraw their support after their opposition to a nuclear deal was ignored by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In West Bengal, the Left and Congress alliance was first formed in the civic polls in Siliguri in 2009.
With neither party gaining enough seats, they saw a common purpose in ousting Trinamool. However, the Left and Congress rivalry in the state has had a long and bloody history. The Congress seemed to be doing better than the Left Front by leading in 40 constituencies — Left candidates were moving in the first position in 35. The BJP was ahead in six and its alliance partner Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in three. It was only in Malda and Murshidabad districts where the Left-Congress alliance candidates were doing well.
In Murshidabad, the alliance was in the forefront in 18 of the 22 seats, while in Malda it led in eight of the 11 constituencies. The dismal scenario for the Left-Congress alliance was reflected in its unofficial chief ministerial candidate, CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra falling behind by over 4,000 votes against his Trinamool Congress opponent.
However, amid all the pervading gloom, one good news for the alliance was that former Congress president Manas Bhunia was leading in his constituency of Sabang.
In Kolkata, the Trinamool candidates had left their rivals far behind in 10 of the 11 constituencies in the city. However, in Jorasanko constituency, former state BJP president Rahul Sinha was in the lead. The Trinamool virtually knocked out the opposition in the junglemahal area — comprising forested stretches of mainly three western districts West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura.
It was also sweeping in Birbhum, Howrah and East Midnapore districts. Mamata Banerjee had based her campaign on the development ushered in by her government and the various social welfare schemes it had launched.
On the other hand, the alliance had canvassed mainly on the corruption issue — in the aftermath of the Narada sting footage that showed a number of Trinamool leaders accepting wads of currency notes in exchange of doling out favours to a fictitious company.
The Communist Party of India said that the Left Front needs "serious introspection" about their strategy in West Bengal where TMC is set to retain power.
with inputs from Agencies
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: May 19, 2016 14:54:12 IST