Trinamool heads toward spectacular win in Bengal
The ruling Trinamool Congress seemed set to sweep the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, the BJP signalled its rise as a force while the CPI-M led Left Front was virtually pushed to the margins, latest trends in the vote count indicated.
The Congress, however, was putting up a stubborn fight to hold on to its area of influence.
Of the total 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the Trinamool candidates were ahead in 33, on way to coming up with their best performance in the state, bettering the 19 seat tally the Mamata Banerjee-led party grabbed in 2009.
The Congress was leading in five and the Bharatiya Janata Party in three seats. The Communist Party of India-Marxist, the major partner in the Left Front which ruled the state for 34 long years without a break till 2011, was maintaining a slender lead in only the Raiganj seat in north Bengal.
In the previous Lok Sabha polls in 2009, the then Trinamool Congress-Congress- Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist (SUCI-C) alliance had won 26 seats. The Trinamool had bagged 19 and the Congress six seats, while the SUCI-C won in one constituency.
The Left Front had got 15 seats, with the CPI-M securing nine. The other LF partners triumphed in half a dozen constituencies. It is likely that the LF would end up with its worst show since its formation in 1977.
The BJP's best performance so far was in 1999, when it bagged two seats - but in alliance with the Trinamool. This time, BJP had fought all the 42 seats in the state on its own.
So long, the BJP's vote percentage of 12 was the highest in the state, but there are strong indications that it may end up with at least three-five percent more.
Bollywood singer and BJP candidate Babul Supriyo was ahead in Asansol while his party colleague S.S. Ahluwalia has left behind his opponents including former Indian soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia of Trinamool. Another BJP candidate Birendra Bara (Oraon) was leading in Alipurduar.
Among the Trinamool candidates who are in the lead are former railways minister Dinesh Trivedi (Barrackpore), party supremo Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee (Diamond Harbour), state party chief Subrata Bakshi (Kolkata South), former union minister Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Kolkata North), Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's grand nephew and Harvard don Sugata Bose (Jadavpur), and former union minister Sougata Roy (Dum Dum).
Celebrity nominees of Trinamool, who are in the lead, are actress Sandhya Roy (Medinipur), actor Tapas Pal (Krishnanagar), Satabdi Roy (Birbhum), and Arjuna awardee former Indian soccer captain Prasun Mukherjee (Howrah).
Amid an all-round dismal show, CPI-M central committee member Md. Salim was leading over his opponents in Raiganj.
Another Marxist candidate Muzaffar Hossain was in a neck and neck race with Congress nominee and president Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee in Jangipur. However, latest reports said Mukherjee had pushed ahead.
State Congress president and union minister Adhir Chowdhury was maintaining a substantial lead over his rivals in his old constituency Baharampur, while another union minister Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury was occupying the pole position in Maldah South.