Trinamool Congress (TMC) retained the Howrah Lok Sabha constituency, with its candidate Prasun Banerjee defeating his nearest rival Sridip Bhattacharya of the CPI(M) by 27,015 votes.
Postal ballots were yet to be counted. The poll result comes as a shot in the arm for the ruling party TMC that was up against the twin factors of a triangular fight and the Saradha ponzi scam effect.
However, the margin of win was slimmer this time. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the TMC candidate had won by a margin of about 37,000 votes.
If the margins in the seven assembly constituencies that make up the Lok Sabha constituency were counted in the 2011 assembly polls, the TMC was ahead by 1.87 lakh votes.
Interestingly, possibly sending an overture to the TMC before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP withdrew its candidate Ashim Ghosh. This move probably contributed to the TMC win as BJP had secured about 50,000 votes in the 2011 assembly elections from the seven assembly constituencies that constitute Howrah Lok Sabha constituency.
Despite the bypoll loss, there is a silver lining for the CPI(M). The party candidate got more votes than his TMC rival in two assembly constituencies — Howrah South and Sankrail. In 2011, TMC candidates had won all the seven constituencies.
The bypoll was held on June 2, with a turnout of 67%. The seat had got vacated after octogenarian Trinamool MP Ambica Banerjee died on April 25.
Although this was only a bypoll, the Howrah Lok Sabha seat held immense significance for politics in the state. It was a test of whether and to what extent the ruling TMC could hold its ground in a three-way test.
This was also the first poll in West Bengal after the Saradha scam exploded in the state in mid-April imperilling millions of depositors and hundreds of crores of rupees of their hard-earned savings.
That the poll was politically important was evident from the fact that chief minister Mamata Banerjee went to Howrah to campaign four times. CPI(M) too fielded star campaigners, such as politburo members Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Biman Bose and Suryakanta Mishra.
All the candidates of the principal parties — TMC, CPI(M) and Congress — were first time contestants.
Howrah is a 500-year old urban agglomeration on the eastern bank of the Hooghly river and is best known for unplanned, densely populated habitation, one of the country’s biggest rail terminus and a rusty manufacturing sector, especially iron foundries. Howrah also has a considerable Hindi-speaking population.