Mamata Banerjee appeared set on Thursday to storm back to power in West Bengal with a two-thirds majority in the assembly, decimating an opposition alliance that charged her with corruption and megalomania.
Trends from the assembly polls reported by the election commission showed the Trinamool Congress ahead in 214 of the 294 constituencies, bettering its performance in the last assembly elections.
“This is the day to resolve to take Bengal forward. There was a lot of mudslinging and slanders. But we kept our target fixed on development,” said Banerjee at her Kalighat residence.
“Our target will be to focus on the economic uplift of the poor and downtrodden.”
The Left-Congress alliance, driven by desperate survival instincts, appeared heading for a disaster. The combine led in only 73 seats -- a miserable performance considering the alliance had 55 incumbent Left and 31 Congress MLAs.
The BJP was ahead in five, one of the seats being Jorasanko in Kolkata where a flyover collapsed in March, killing 27 people.
“The people of the state did not accept any of our arguments against Mamata Banerjee and her government,” a grim-faced CPI (M) candidate Rabin Deb told HT in Singur, an area that alliance had highlighted as a symbol of Banerjee’s failure to drive industry to the state. The ruling party was ahead both in Singur and Nandigram.
Early counting also indicated the Trinamool’s vote share will settle above 45% -- at midday it stood at 45.9% -- far higher than the just-under-40% in 2011 assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The CPI (M) was bleeding at 19.2% and Congress gained from both the 2011 and 2014 mark at 11.4%. BJP got 10.3% of the votes. Most of the ministers in Banerjee’s cabinet were ahead of their rivals.
Banerjee also criticised the police – a repeat of her attacks on the force in the tail-end of her campaign. “The police did commit excesses. There was a lot of excesses in the name of central forces. Medicine shops and famous establishments were also closed down,” said Banerjee.
“I thank the Election Commission for a peaceful poll.”
In her residence the chief minister was in a cheerful mood right from the morning, enquiring whether journalists who gathered in front of her house, were given refreshments.
Among the ministers who won or, were leading, were Banerjee (chief minister), Partha Chatterjee (education), Arup Biswas (sports, housing), Malay Ghatak (labour), Chandrima Bhattacharya (law), Subrata Mukherjee (panchayat, public health engineering), Firhad Hakim (urban development), Sashi Panja (women and child development), Rajib Banerjee (irrigation), Amit Mitra (finance).
Among important Trinamool candidates who were trailing were Bhaichung Bhutia and Madan Mitra, till recently sports and transport minister who is contesting from jail.