Mamata Banerjee’s stunning victory in the West Bengal elections, once again proved that it is only Mamata Banerjee who can navigate and sail through the storm to triumph. Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress brought back the biggest-ever single-party rule in West Bengal, recording a landslide victory in the state assembly polls. Winning 211 seats, the Trinamool Congress party became the single largest party ever to capture power in the state’s political history.
Five years back in 2011, Mamata Banerjee had called for “Defeat the Left-front”, which she had successfully achieved by overthrowing the Communist-led government after 34 years. In 2016, she rode to the victory on a positive swing in her favour by urban as well as rural voters, which proves her governance and her developmental initiatives have been well accepted by the people of Bengal.
Now with the result, Mamata Banerjee is all set to become the first woman chief minister in Bengal to have won two consecutive terms in office. The oath of office will be taken on May 27 and the new government should be in place by May 29, which she has declared during her first press meet after the poll results were declared.
Mamata Banerjee dedicated this victory to the people and the development. “For the first time in 49 years, All India Trinamool Congress, all by itself, has come to power in Bengal, riding on a single agenda – development. It is not only the Trinamool Congress, which has emerged victorious, but our constant strive for all-round development, our people friendly policies and practices and our good governance have triumphed. It is the victory of good over evil and most importantly, a victory of the people of Bengal. We are grateful to Maa Mati Manush,” she said.
The outcome of the elections clearly reflects that there was no impact of either the Sarada-Narada scams or the Vivekananda flyover collapse just before the polls as Trinamool Congress won all the 11 seats in Kolkata. Even the alliance between the Left Parties and Congress didn’t work. Trinamool Congress alone has crossed the 211 mark and won a vote share of over 47 per cent – up almost 7 per cent from the 2011 assembly polls. The Congress-CPM alliance secured a vote share of 37 per cent and the BJP around 10.2 per cent down from 7.5 per cent of the Lok Sabha results.
But in her own constituency Bhowanipur, Mamata Banerjee faced a tough challenge from BJP candidate and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s grand nephew Chandra Bose and Deepa Das Munsi of Congress but won comprehensively in the end by 25,301 votes, but she has lost almost 50 per cent of her votes in comparison to her last vote share.
Though BJP has lost to its total vote share which it has gained from Lok Sabha elections last year, the party has managed to won 3 seats, as the Party State President Dilip Ghosh grabbed Kharagpur constituency defeating Congress veteran legislature and seven times winner of Kharagpur assembly seat Gyan Singh Sohanpal.
Mamata Banerjee has gave a big blow to the Congress-CPM alliance, devastating them in most places. The affect was much more devastating for the CPM who fell far short of the seats that its partner the Congress could win. Now Congress is the second largest party in the assembly with 44 seats. State Congress President Adhir Chowdhury underscored that his party bagged half the 91 seats it had contested. Chowdhury also said: “As the principal opposition, we must claim the post of the leader of the opposition.”
With the Left getting only 32 seats and the Congress 44 seats, many in Left Front are of the view that the cadres might have voted for the Congress as there was a mutually agreed Congress candidate of the alliance, but the same might not have happened in case where there was a Left candidate in the fray and the Congress supporters were urged to vote for them. The views are also confirmed by CPIM Member of Parliament and Politburo member Mohammad Salim when he hinted that all was not well in the alliance. “It seems section of electorate did not have trust in this new formation. We were earnest in taking forward the alliance. Whether there was reciprocal behaviour, we cannot say now,” he said.
Besides Salim several CPIM leaders admitted that Congress workers in many places did not vote for the CPIM. Surya Kanta Mishra – one of the chief architects of the alliance between the Congress and the left Front was himself defeated in Narayangarh in West Midnapore, though he said: “Defeat does not mean retreat. The fight for restoration of democracy in Bengal will continue.”
The TMC, however, lost about 10-12 seats because of internal sabotage including Jadavpur where Manish Gupta – the hero of the 2011 election, when he defeated the then Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, lost to Sujan Chakrabarti of the CPIM. Over these defeats, Mamata Banerjee was upset and said all these defeats would be analysed later and actions will be taken.
The 2016 victory of Mamata Banerjee is no doubt different from the one in 2011 on several counts, most important being the free and fairness of the polls this time, as ensured by Election Commission of India, but she navigated her party to the triumph, silencing her opponents. This victory may be attributed to the following factors More years for development: In 2011, people of Bengal voted for Mamata Banerjee after 34 years of keeping faith in the Left Front. This time around, voters felt that five years were too short a tenure for a chief minister to all that she wanted to change, and so gave her more time.
Industrial face: Support from industry was a crucial factor in Mamata’s victory. Besides throwing off her post-Singur image of a leader hostile to land acquisition for big companies, her administrative skill in balancing industrial demands with people’s interests came in handy.
Jangalmahal and North Bengal: The naxal-affected region of Jangalmahal comprising 3 districts of Bengal, namely West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura has seen a surge of development activities in the last five years. The restoration of peace in Jangalmahal and the hills of north Bengal helped her score with the voters. Mamata gave a boost to development in north Bengal by setting up a branch Secretariat at Uttar Kanya in Siliguri, which caters to the needs of 22 per cent of the population residing in the seven north Bengal districts.
Maximum utilisation of Central Schemes: Mamata Banerjee made full use of her budget for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generations Scheme (MGNREGS), creating record jobs during 2011-16 and spending more than Rs. 5600 crore.
Although the above factors are looked upon as ornamental by the opponents, in reality Mamata has been successful in convincing people, which is evident with this victory. But one of the most alarming outcomes of this election is NOTA votes. The Election Commission data shows that Bengal recorded 831,845 NOTA votes, which is 1.5 per cent of the total votes cast, which is highest among the states where the elections were held.
Now that the expectations of the people have increased, Mamata too has to be accountable to keep developmental agenda to root out the corruption and infighting within her party. The five years that people have bestowed upon her is to be looked upon as the grace period to prove her party more clean.
By Joydeep Dasgupta