Even as news of a certain victory for incumbent Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee started to filter in, the unequivocal mandate of the people of West Bengal which has given her an unprecedented vote share of 47.8 per cent (till the time this copy had been filed) made one thing clear in this election: despite the hype, corruption remains a non-issue in West Bengal.
From the onset of the election campaign, corruption had been thrown up as one of the main platforms on which all opposition parties – the unofficial alliance of the Congress and the Left, as well as the BJP – fought the elections. The Sharada chit fund scam as well as the newly released tapes of the Narada sting operation, in which 11 of the Trinamool’s top leaders were shown taking lakhs of rupees as bribes in exchange of favours, has had little effect on the voting. Analysts say that especially in rural Bengal the issue has had no bearing.
In an election of many firsts – the unprecedented “jote” or coalition of erstwhile arch rivals Congress and the Left parties – corruption as an electoral issue was a first in any Bengal election.
While incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee had remained silent on the tapes at her first few rallies, deciding instead to hit at out at the newly formed “opportunistic” ‘jote’, as she called it, she grew increasingly nervous and wary as the campaign wore on.
On April 17, in a public meeting in Kolkata she admitted, for the first time, that if the issue had come to light before, she would have reconsidered the distribution of tickets to certain party members. By the time the election neared its end, Banerjee was heard pleading with voters at several rallies to give her another chance, to vote for her and not her party members.
The Opposition, meanwhile, kept up the heat, leaving no stone unturned and raising the Narada tapes issue at every single public meeting and rally. But with Banerjee having crossed the magic 200 mark (out of 294 assembly constituencies which went to polls) the Oppositions’ efforts for an anti-corrupt government seems to have fallen on deaf ears — the people reposed their faith in the pro-Unnayan (progress/Development) chief minister.