Kolkata, May 19 (IANS) Brushing aside anti-incumbency and a high-octane opposition campaign on corruption, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday led her Trinamool Congress to a landslide victory in the assembly polls on the development plank, decimating the newly cobbled Left-Congress alliance.
In the 294-member house, the Trinamool finished with 211 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 dream of ousting the then ruling 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 Street, Banerjee fanned 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.”
The Left-Congress combine emerged victor in just 77 seats. The Congress did better than the Left by winning in 44 constituencies, despite fighting only 108 seats, surpassing its 2011 tally of 42 seats.
The Left, which contested 193 seats and lent support to associate parties and independents in 11 constituencies, came up with a pathetic show getting 32 seats, even losing the slot of the main opposition to the Congress. An independent backed by the alliance also won.
Among LF partners, the CPI-M bagged 26 seats, followed by the Revolutionary Socialist Party with three, the All India Forward Bloc with two and the Communist Party of India with one. It was the CPI-M’s worst performance since 1972, when it had to be content with 14 seats.
The BJP and its alliance partner Gorkha Janmukti Morcha bagged three seats each.
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, seven 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.
On the other hand, most of the alliance candidates, many of them former ministers, were humbled.
Among their few notable winners were former state Congress president Manas Bhunia, party’s veteran leader Abdul Mannan, CPI-M state secretariat member Sujon Chakraborty, and ex-ministers Ashok Bhattacharya, Anisur Rahman (all CPI-M) and Biswanath Choudhury.
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.