Bittersweet win for Mamata

West Bengal chief minister leads Trinamool Congress to a landslide but loses the battle for her own seat
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Photo: AP/file

Mamata Banerjee lost her seat in the high-stakes Nandigram assembly, but the charismatic Trinamool Congress supremo brought her party to power in West Bengal for the third time in a row.

Mamata showed the grit and political acumen needed to single-handedly defeat the Narendra Modi wave that has swept over India, despite his Bharatiya Janata Party launching an all-out campaign of the Saffron star cast.

Analysts say her victory is a triumph of secularism against the divisive politics of religion and nationalism.

However, the BJP has many reasons to cheer as it is now the second-most popular party in West Bengal, surpassing National Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist). These two parties ruled the WB for over 64 years combined.

The Congress and CPIM were absolutely decimated.

The two parties formed an alliance after being adversaries for over 70 years. But the friendliness among the top leaders never trickled down to the grassroots.

In the last assembly polls in 2016, the CPIM and Congress won 76 seats. This year they are heading for just one.

As of filing this report at 12:00am, TMC is poised to win 210 seats and the BJP 80 seats out of a total 296 seats. Elections were postponed in two seats after the death of their candidates. The magic figure to form the government is 148 seats.

In the last assembly polls in 2016, TMC got 211 seats, CPIM and Congress got 76 seats and BJP got only three. TMC got 44.91 percent votes, the left and Congress won 32 percent votes while BJP achieved only 10 percent.

The scenario changed in the last Lok Sabha elections (National Polls) in 2019, when TMC got 43.69 percent votes and BJP managed to bag 40.64, leading it to take the WB assembly seriously enough to solidify its footprints on the West Bengal map.

As soon as TMC managed to score a majority in the West Bengal assembly, all eyes turned to the high-stakes Nandigram seat, the town that catapulted Mamata to power in 2011 for the first time, where she was pitted against her aide-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari, who joined the BJP early this year.

After going back and forth for an entire evening, the Election Commission declared Adhikari the winner by a narrow margin from the constituency. Mamata and Suvendu alternately led in different rounds of vote counts and recounts.

Mamata now effectively has six months to get another shot at being elected as the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). For this, an MLA from her party will have to resign so that by-polls can be held there.

Immediately after her party's landslide victory, Mamata said, "This is a victory for the people of Bengal. I am proud to say that Bengal saved the country. The Election Commission behaved badly with us -- they behaved like BJP's spokesperson. BJP played dirty politics and lost the election."

She also announced her decision to move court over "mischief" in Nandigram counting.

Addressing her first media conference in Kolkata on her feet after leaving the wheelchair, she said the first priority of her new government would be to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi last night congratulated Mamata and promised continued support to her government to "fulfil the people's aspirations and to overcome Covid-19 pandemic."

Confined to a wheelchair with her leg in a cast during most of the campaign after being attacked in Nandigram, Mamata has clearly come out as the undisputed winner in Bengal.

Riding on a blend of welfare schemes, promised doles and Bengali sub-nationalism and the catchy jingle of "khela hobey", Mamata spearheaded her Trinamool Congress to a hattrick, galloping back to power in West Bengal for the third consecutive time with a comfortable majority.

However, the BJP made history in Assam by coming back to power in the state to become the first non-Congress party to do so. The party is also set to have a share of the power pie in the tiny state of Puducherry as a junior partner of regional party All India NR Congress party.

While the Left Front coalition was all set to return to power in Kerala, breaking a four decade-old trend in the state, regional outfit Dravida Munnetra Kazagham is poised to sweep back to power in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The biggest loser of this round of elections in the five states was the Congress which was defeated comprehensively in Assam, Kerala and Puducherry, where it had held power before these elections, while in Bengal it is on the verge of extinction from the electoral scene.

The biggest and most watched election was, of course, that in West Bengal -- considered by the BJP as the "final frontier" in its unending quest for expanding its footprints in all the states. BJP's performance in Bengal exposed its failure to produce a credible chief ministerial candidate who could match Mamata's charisma.

Mamata has clearly come out as the undisputed winner in Bengal where the BJP made it a personal battle with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The abiding image of the campaign was Mamata, clad in a white blue-bordered saree and hawai chappal, being pushed in a wheelchair and addressing 90 public meetings across Bengal.

But what overshadowed everything else is Mamata making Bengali sub-nationalism the central electoral plank. It was to drive this theme that she successfully stirred the "outsider (bohiragoto) versus insider" debate and played the "Joy Bangla" slogan to counter BJP's "Jai Shri Ram" chant.



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