It was around 6.20 pm on Sunday when Shuvendu Adhikari, the top Trinamool Congress leader who had defected to the Bharatiya Janata Party, finally defeated Mamata Banerjee in a neck to neck contest in Nandigram and snatched the seat by a slender margin of 1,956 votes. However, the Trinamool Congress swept the West Bengal election.
The outcome in Nandigram was a dramatic ending to the high-decible, communally polarised elections wherein the Trinamool Congress (TMC) bagged a massive victory in the state but party supremo Mamata Banerjee lost. Earlier around 4:30 pm on Sunday, she was declared winner from Nandigram, but later it was announced that she had lost to Adhikari. It was only late in the night that the Election Commission finally declared Adhikari as the official winner. Even though Banerjee had conceded defeat earlier in the evening, later she said that she would move court to contest the Nandigram Assembly result and alleged issues in the counting process.
Nandigram is an anomaly as the state voted otherwise handing over 200 seats out of the total 292 to the TMC, which fought on the planks of minority and Bengali vote banks. As of Monday morning, TMC had won 211 seats and was leading in two others. A summation of these two vote banks led to the fall of the BJP, which managed to win 77 seats.
The Sanjukta Morcha only won one seat through the newly floated Indian Secular Front even as the Left Front and the Congress drew a blank in the elections. This is the first time since Independence that the West Bengal Assembly will have no representative from the Left, which ruled the state for 34 years.
The Left Marks BJP Defeat as Important Event
Left Front Chairman Biman Basu in a press release marked the defeat of the BJP in the West Bengal elections as an important event of the state. The Sanjukto Morcha faced an electoral debacle and why it happened needed to be introspected at each party level, he said, adding that the Left will take lessons from the outcome.
Basu further said that the current trends pointed to the fact that people’s extreme urge to defeat the BJP has led the TMC to gain maximum results. The BJP used the Sangh Parivar and spent thousands of rupees, used helicopters to campaign in the districts, but even after that, the people of Bengal has rejected them, he said. “The Sanjukto Morcha will work to keep up constitutional ethos, safeguard the democratic system, secularism and struggle for the upkeep of the livelihood of the state’s working class,” he said.
The Sanjukto Morcha managed only 10% votes. Amongst notable defeated candidates of the Left are CPI(M) Politburo member MD Salim and Left Legislative Party leader Sujan Chakraborty.
The Congress lost big in Malda and Murshidabad districts, where the anti-BJP campaigns led to strategic voting by the minority section who ditched their traditional voting option--the Congress.
In Siliguri, sitting CPI(M) MLA Ashok Bhattacharya lost to BJP’s Shankar Ghosh, a turncoat from the TMC. In North Bengal, the BJP had a comparatively better performance including in Cooch Behar,Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts.
‘Bengal Saved India’
Amongst the prominent winners of the TMC are Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, Panchayat Minister Subrata mukherjee, and Arup Biswas who defeated former Union minister Babul Supriyo from Tollygunge seat.
In the minority inhabited areas, TMC candidates got huge leads, underlining the strategic voting factors whereby the fear of advent of the saffron party led to the Muslim votes consolidating into TMC s stable. It is to be noted that there is over 30% minority vote in the state and strategic consolidation of this share meant a clear cut advantage for Mamta Banerjee and her party in the elections.
Banerjee, who fought the elections on ‘Bangaliyana’ (Bengaliness) and projected herself as ‘Banglar Meye’ (Bengal’s daughter) in the election campaign, marked the TMC’s landslide victory by saying, “Bengal has saved India today.” Commenting on the election and the poll campaign, which saw vitriolic exchanges between Banerjee and the top BJP leadership including Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, the TMC supremo said, “When they spoke of double engine I had told of double century and that happened.”
The TMC decided to defer the victory rally due to the rising Covid cases in the state. Banerjee also asked her supporters to not hold processions. Besides, she reiterated the demand for free vaccination throughout the country and reassured people regarding her pre-poll promise of giving free vaccination to everyone in the state . “Free vaccination will only require 30,000 crores which the Government of India, with the Reserve Bank of India at their disposal, can easily do,” she said.
The electoral outcome was a massive let down for the BJP as Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah had declared during the campaigning that their party was set to win over 200 seats. They also exuded confidence about victory after the first few phases of the unprecedented eight-phase election. In his reaction state BJP President Dilip Ghosh pledged to be the right kind of opposition party in the state and form the state government in the future.