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Bengal bypoll: Teamwork pays

india Updated: Sep 20, 2006 03:21 IST

When the bypoll results — of three Lok Sabha constituencies and one assembly constituency — in West Bengal were announced on Tuesday, the writing on the wall was clear: this could be the beginning of a new political chapter and a new electoral cohabitation in the state.

While the Left Front predictably won the Katwa and Purulia parliamentary seats, the attention-grabbers were the Congress’s victory in the Malda Lok Sabha seat and the Trinamool Congress’s (TC) win in the Bongaon assembly constituency. It was the success of an electoral alliance stitched together in haste by the TC's Mamata Banerjee and the Congress's Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi a month before the polls.

Sonia Gandhi congratulated Mamata Bannerjee on the Trinamool’s victory in the bypolls and thanked her for supporting the Congress nominee in the Malda Lok Sabha seat. Sonia is known to have a soft corner for Mamata but her telephone call is bound to raise speculation on whether the Congress will renew efforts to persuade the Trinamool to rethink its relations with the NDA.

Banerjee and Dasmunsi’s strategy —the Congress would not put up a candidate in Bongaon and the TC would return the favour in Malda — succeeded. And the alliance could see a resurrection in the next panchayat polls.

The numbers say the story so far. In Malda, the Congress’s Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury defeated the CPM's Sailen Sarkar by 83,391 votes. In Bongaon, Saugata Roy (TC) defeated Pankaj Ghosh (CPM) by 5,767 votes. Roy’s victory makes him a contender for the post of the leader of the opposition.

In Katwa, Abu Ayesh Mondol (CPM) defeated Sushanta Ghosh (TC) by a margin of 1,85,334 votes, and in Purulia, the Forward Bloc’s Nara Hari Mahato defeated Congress’s Shantiram Mahato by 87,033 votes.

Malda, when it comes to the Lok Sabha elections, has been a Congress stronghold, sending A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury to Parliament for eight consecutive terms. Helping the Congress’s win — apart from the hand of the TC —was the sympathy wave following Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s death.

Said Dasmunsi: “This proves that an electoral understanding between the Congress and the Trinamool is a viable formula if executed with sincerity. The people of West Bengal want a change and we can be the alternative.”