Disproving most opinion and exit poll data, Trinamool Congress returned to power in Bengal with a thumping majority and an increased vote share.
With more than 200 seats in its kitty, Mamata Banerjee’s party become the first in more than half a century to come to power on its own in the state.
According to available data, Trinamool not only bagged 211 seats in the House of 294, the party also increased its vote share from around 39% in 2011 to 45% this time.
Trinamool also became the first party since 1962 to gain power on its own.
The Left, swept away in 2011, could not gain any ground despite an alliance with Congress and lost around 13% vote share, coming down to the third position with 25.8%. The Congress marked one of its best scores in nearly two decades, raising its vote share by 2.5% to almost 12.
If the trend became apparent from early on in the day, by noon it was clear the Trinamool juggernaut has started rolling towards the state secretariat and Mamata will reprise her role as Chief Minister. While the tally meant disappointment for the Left-Congress coalition, the Left’s performance made analysts remark that the CPM-led Left Front might be losing relevance in Bengal as it dropped to third position, moving below Congress, which had remained a marginal force in Bengal for several years.
The BJP, which gained its sole MLA in a 2014 by-election from Basirhat in North 24 Parganas, lost the seat this time but won three others, in a first for the saffron party in Bengal. While the party lost almost six percent of its 2014 vote share, it gained two seats in North Bengal and party state president Dilip Ghosh won the Kharagpur Sadar seat, defeating sitting Congress MLA, 93-year-old Gyan Singh Sohanpal, the oldest candidate in the fray. The verdict also revealed that the Opposition’s campaign plank of “gross corruption” by Trinamool leaders did not work.
The controversial video footage in late March, showing top Trinamool leaders taking illegal cash payments, did not seem to have any effect on the electorate. Even the death of 27 people in the under-construction flyover collapse, which turned into a major issue weeks before the elections, did not reap dividends for BJP, which was banking on the issue to help its former state president Rahul Sinha to sail through at Jorasanko in north Kolkata, the site of the flyover. Sinha lost to Trinamool’s Smita Bakshi, whose relative was accused of supplying poor quality construction material for the project.
The ruling party, however, faced some setbacks with some of its top contenders losing the polls, including former state minister Madan Mitra and outgoing power minister, Manish Gupta.
Even Mamata, who had won with a margin of 54,000-plus votes in 2011, retained her home seat of Bhawanipore with around half the margin of slightly over 25,000.
That did not deter Mamata to announce her party’s march to victory by 1 pm from her south Kolkata residence. “Our dream is to make Bengal the best in the world, have good relations with neighbouring states and development for the down-trodden,” she said, urging supporters to maintain peace even as apprehensions of post-poll violence abounded. Mamata said she will hold a party meeting on Friday before approaching Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi for the formal induction. “May 20 is a day of poriborton (change) for us; it’s the day we were sworn in last time. From tomorrow till May 30, we’ll have cultural programmes and victory marches to thank people. I’ve been personally targeted and slandered but voters ignored that… We want to thank people, who are most important in this celebration of democracy,” she said.