The Trinamool Congress’ resounding victory in the West Bengal assembly election on Thursday and the rout of the Left-Congress alliance was because of one factor alone: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Her party won a two-thirds majority, securing 211 seats in the 294-member assembly.
Her arch-rival, the Left Front, was left groveling. It secured 32 seats – its worst performance since Independence – and won’t be the main opposition party. The Left’s vote share dipped from 41.05% in 2011 to 25.7%.
The Congress, however, gained from the polls. It won 44 seats --two more than in 2011 -- with its vote share going up from 8.91% to 12.2%. The Congress is now the biggest opposition party in the state.
The result also threw up major gains in terms of vote share for the BJP. It won three seats, but its vote share zoomed from 4.06% in the 2011 assembly polls to 10.2%.
Trinamool secured 45% of votes, up a massive 5.82 percentage points from the 39.08% in the 2011 assembly polls and 39.02 % in the Lok Sabha polls two years ago.
This was a remarkable victory for a leader whose walked out of the Congress 18 years ago and formed her party following decades of protests and violence, allegedly at the hands of the then Left government.
Banerjee came into the polls battling a slew of political challenges – an unprecedented opposition alliance, corruption charges such as the Narada and Saradha scandals and factional feuds.
The extent of her credibility with the people was evident from the victory of Smita Bakshi, who won from Jorasanko in Kolkata despite the collapse of a flyover in the area that killed 27 people four days before the polls began on April 4.
None of this would have been possible without the rare chemistry she struck with the voters. She addressed more than 150 public meetings in about two months and repeatedly described how hollow and opportunistic the Left-Congress alliance was. Thursday’s message showed the electorate believed her.
“It’s a major political blunder for the CPI (M) in the state. They are the big loser. They have compromised with ideology. When ideology is lost, everything is lost,” she remarked.
The rural voter also stood by her. Government schemes such as cycles, books, rice at Rs 2 a kg, in addition with better roads and water supply helped the Trinamool dominate the countryside.
Banerjee’s effective management of the Maoist insurgency problem and the separatist Gorkha movement also probably helped the Trinamool.
In north Bengal, a territory known to be a stronghold of the Congress, the Trinamool made significant gains. It won 24 of the 54 seats, dashing all hopes of the alliance to make it big in the state. In 2011, Banerjee has got 16 seats in this region. In south Bengal, the Trinamool won 187 out of 240 seats.