West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her scam-scarred Trinamool Congress staved off an apparent popularity downslide and the BJP's growing influence in the state to post convincing victories in two bypolls on Monday.
The wins reaffirmed Mamata's position at a time critics saw despondency in the ruling party as several Trinamool leaders and state minister Madan Mitra were behind bars for suspected links with the Saradha deposit scandal.
The chief minister's namesake, Mamatabala Thakur, won the Bongaon Lok Sabha bypoll by a margin of 2.11 lakh votes. The CPM came in second while votes for the BJP's almost doubled, indicating the chronic erosion in the leftist party's base.
Trinamool's Satyajit Biswas took the Krishnaganj assembly seat, holding off a challenge from the BJP candidate. The CPM came third. A relieved Mamata called the victory "people's magic" and a miracle as she saluted her party workers. She again accused the BJP of using the CBI to hound the Trinamool in connection with the Saradha scam.
The Trinamool ribbed the BJP as the defeat stymied its leadership's Bengal initiative.
"In 2016, it will be Bhaag BJP Bhaag," party secretary general and state education minister Partha Chatterjee said in a riposte to BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh's "Bhaag Mamata Bhaag" remarks in November.
The revenge was sweeter because it came after minister Manjul Krishna Thakur defected to the BJP with son Subrata - the latter being the saffron party's candidate for Bongaon.
Critics said the wins could stem defections and force suspected Mukul Roy loyalists on the mat.
This was the first election since TMC's victory in 2011 where party general secretary Roy played no role.