Polls: Will Mamata survive scams, united Opposition to win Bengal again?
Surveys conducted by several TV channels predicted that Bengal’s ruling party may secure 160 to 170 seats in the 294-seat Assembly, slightly lower than the 184 it won in 2011.assembly elections Updated: May 17, 2016 10:45 IST
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will return to power in West Bengal but with fewer seats, most exit polls indicated on Monday evening.
Surveys conducted by several TV channels predicted that Bengal’s ruling party may secure 160 to 170 seats in the 294-seat Assembly, slightly lower than the 184 it won in 2011. In the outgoing house, the Trinamool Congress has 203 MLAs, courtesy switch-overs from the Congress, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Forward Bloc and the CPI(M).
Reacting to the exit poll predictions, Trinamool vice-president Subrata Mukherjee said: “It has been proved that chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s development initiative across Bengal has triumphed over the canards spread by opposition parties and a section of the media. The people of Bengal were – and are – with Mamata Banerjee. However, I think we will do better than what the exit polls have predicted.”
The opposition also claimed that the exit polls were inaccurate, although in a different way. “I can say that everyone has doubts regarding the predictions in Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress has unleashed a reign of terror. It is unlikely that the surveys conducted outside the polling booths reflect a true picture of what is to come,” said Md Salim, CPI(M) politburo member and Lok Sabha MP.
Om Prakash Mishra, senior Congress leader, seemed convinced that the Congress-Left alliance would emerge victorious with 170 seats on May 19. “There is so much variance in the exit polls by different media houses. For instance, Times now is indicating a 12% vote share for the BJP, while the ABP Ananda has settled for 7%,” he said.
While the ABP Ananda-AC Neilson exit poll put Trinamool Congress at 163 seats and the Left-Congress alliance at 126, it gave just one seat to the BJP and four to the rest. The Time Now C-Voter survey – on the other hand – gave the ruling party 167 seats, the Left-Congress alliance 120, the BJP four and a mere three to the rest.
The India TV exit poll also placed the Trinamool Congress at 167 seats and the Left-Congress alliance at 120, leaving the remaining seven to the BJP and the rest. The ABP Ananda survey hinted that the Trinamool Congress will get 44% of the votes, followed by the alliance at 42%. The BJP’s historic high of 16.8% in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls will shrink to 7%, it added.
If these predictions come true on May 19, it would amount to Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee successfully overcoming the biggest political challenge her party has faced in 19 years of its existence.
The odds against Banerjee were many. While the Left and Congress had come together to prevent fragmentation of opposition votes on the one hand, the Trinamool Congress was torn apart by a series of scandals on the other.
A former minister and prominent face of the party has been in jail since December 2014 in connection with the Saradha financial scam. The Narada sting operation, which was carried out a few months before the assembly elections, showed 13 leaders of the party – including MPs, MLAs and ministers – accepting money from the representative of a fictitious company. Adding to this was the collapse of an under-construction flyover in North Kolkata, which killed 27 people. The disaster occurred on March 31, just four days before the first phase of the polls on April 4.
However, all these controversies – on which the Opposition parties seemed to be banking heavily for etching out a win – may have had little effect on the ruling party’s support base if the exit polls say the truth.