The tantalising has-she-won-has-she-not game played out for much of the day as votes were counted under strict Covid protocols. While some TV channels declared her victory, the Election Commission website at 8 pm showed she was trailing behind her one-time loyalist and now BJP candidate Adhikari by more than 4,392 votes. Banerjee conceded defeat to Adhikari, who proved to be a tough competitor and could well emerge one of the party’s most powerful leaders.
“I respect the verdict of people of Nandigram, but have got landslide victory in Bengal,” Banerjee said, adding that she would move court against the ‘mischief’ in Nandigram. The BJP, which worked hard to build inroads in the state and gave it its all, was left reeling under the ‘Mamata’ impact. It was a long way from the three seats in the last elections for the party, which fielded its top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, but power in the state proved to be elusive.
The Left parties, which once called the state their bastion, and the Congress were demolished and not even a factor in the eight-phase election. The campaigning was marked by images of Banerjee in a wheelchair with a thick cast on her leg after she was injured during campaigning. In a brief address to party workers, Banerjee was business-like and sombre as she left the wheelchair behind and rose to address jubilant party workers. Tackling Covid-19 is a priority, she said, asking that no grand oath-taking ceremony would be organised and there would be a victory rally in Kolkata only after the pandemic was over.
It’s the victory of Bengal and democracy, she said. In terms of vote share, the TMC had 48.1 per cent of the votes against the BJP’s 37.8.
The state has a 294-member assembly but the election was countermanded in Shamsherganj and Jangipur constituencies due to the death of candidates. A party needed 147 seats for a simple majority in the House with an effective strength of 292.
In 2016, the TMC won 211 of the 293 seats it contested. The BJP could manage just three (it contested 291 seats). The alliance of Left parties and the Congress won 76 seats. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha won three, while one seat was won by an independent candidate.
The run-up to the eight-phase polls and the month-long voting exercise in the state were packed with thundering rallies, a high-pitched war of words and a series of controversies that catapulted Bengal to the centre stage of national politics.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah led the BJP’s charge, Banerjee tried to put up a spirited defence in her bid for a third straight term. The BJP leadership had set a target of winning at least 200 of the state’s 294 seats. On the other hand, the TMC maintained its rival will not cross the three-figure mark.
Development, polarisation, caste politics, corruption, infiltration and a clash of cultures have dominated the political rhetoric. The BJP promised all-around development in the state, accused the TMC of rampant corruption and appeasement politics, and promised to stop infiltration through the Bangladesh border. The TMC denied all charges and termed the BJP a party of “outsiders” that did not understand Bengal’s issues. According to analysts, the BJP focused on consolidating Hindu votes cutting across caste lines, while the TMC has tried to appeal to the larger idea of Bengaliness.
Both sides petitioned the Election Commission against the other on a number of occasions, with the TMC alleging the poll watchdog of working under the pressure of the Centre’s ruling BJP. A massive controversy erupted in the state after four people were killed in firing by central forces in Cooch Behar’s Sitalkuchi during the fourth phase of polling.
Bengal has traditionally voted overwhelmingly in favour of the party that comes to power. Will it be the same this time? Seems so. If the trends translate to results.
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