Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) are heading for a landslide victory in the West Bengal state assembly poll, 2016, defying all speculation of a close contest against the combined opposition of the Communists and the Congress. The election has dealt a big blow to the Congress-Communist alliance.
The rout was more devastating for the CPM than the Congress as the voting trend thus far indicates that while the CPM cadres may have voted for the Congress where there was a mutually agreed Congress candidate, the same may not have happened in cases where there was a CPM candidate in the fray.
Thus, the vote transfer from the Congress to the CPM may not have taken place as expected and the TMC might have been the beneficiary of unexpected Congress ballots. There is also the possibility that a large number of Congress workers opted for NOTA. Now, the CPM and the Congress will have to brainstorm about the future shape of the alliance and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
For Mamata Banerjee, there is a massive victory to celebrate and the fact that West Bengal will have a woman chief minister for a second consecutive term. She’s also set another record having achieved single party rule in West Bengal after a gap of almost 45 years when the Congress under Siddhartha Shankar Ray was in power in 1972. The Trinamool Congress surge was evident right from the beginning of counting at about 8 am in 90 centres across the state.
The first Trinamool Congress victory was announced in the Kolkata Shyampukur seat where the winner was Sashi Panja, daughter-in-law of the departed Congress and Trinamool Congress leader Ajit Panja. The victory margin was convincing – over 13,000 votes. Significantly, Sashi Panja’s constituency is adjacent to Jorasanko constituency where the Vivekananda flyover had collapsed on the eve of the polls and there were fears that her prospects might get jeopardized. That did not happen. In Jorasanko itself, Rahul Sinha of BJP was ahead of his rival Trinamool Congress candidate at the time of writing.
The counting trends indicated that all the Narada-tainted candidates in the fray were surging ahead so the scam did not impact the voting except for the constituency in which it happened. Out of 11 seats in Kolkata city, the Trinamool Congress was leading in 10. This indicates that Didi was able to attract urban voters too. The early trends also indicated that the TMC would be making deep inroads into north Bengal where the Congress-CPM combination had been expected to win a large chunk of seats.
In Cooch Behar, for instance, the TMC was leading in more than half of the nine seats. In Murshidabad, where the Congress-CPM combination was expected to make a clean sweep of the 22 seats, the TMC was putting up a good fight in at least five seats. So, while Didi held onto her supremacy in south Bengal districts like Banura, West and east Midnapore (Junglemahal), Purulia, Howrah, Hooghly, Burdwan and North and South 24-Parganas, she gained new ground in North Bengal.
Another significant feature of the early results was the performance of the BJP in over half dozen seats. It had been leading in these seats after several rounds of counting. But the final tally is yet to be announced.