If anybody had any doubt on how decisive the mandate for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was, a cursory glance at the results of Kolkata put to rest all such doubts. Never had the city, since Independence, handed down such a sweeping verdict in favour of a single party.
It has not only been 11 out of 11 for Trinamool in Kolkata, but the people of the city also seemed to have voted en masse, cutting across all ethnic, linguistic and communal divisions, to teach the Left a lesson that it will find difficult to forget.
This, in spite, of a fairly lower turnout (62.56%) in the city compared to the districts (average turnout across the state was 81.42%).
Above all, the verdict ensured that the incumbent chief minister lost in his party’s ‘impregnable fortress’, Jadavpur, the second time in Bengal’s history when a sitting chief minister lost an assembly poll. The first one was Congress’s Prafulla Sen in 1967, a year that marked the rise of the CPI-M in the state.
Even in 1977, at the height of its glory, the CPI(M)-led Left Front had to concede five seats to the Congress, the only opposition party then, out of the 21 seats in Kolkata at the time. The share of Left Front’s seats, however, dropped to 10 in 1982 with the opposition bagging the rest. And then, over the years, it had been a story of steady decline for the Left Front in Kolkata. On Friday, the Left was completely decimated in the capital.
The worst scenario for the Left Front in Kolkata before Friday’s verdict was in 1996 when the CPI(M) and its allies managed to win only six of the 21 seats. In 2006, the Left Front had won 9 seats in the city.
That the winds of change had started blowing and were quietly gathering the pace to unleash a storm became evident in 2009 when the Trinamool Congress won 19 Lok Sabha seats in the state, a historic turnaround for a party that had just one MP in Mamata Banerjee (elected from South Kolkata constituency) in 2004. The 2004 Lok Sabha poll verdict had not only been a disaster for Trinamool but it remains the worst electoral fate that Mamata’s 13-year-old party has suffered till date.
The contours of the turnaround became sharper with the results of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections in 2010. The Trinamool Congress formed the board on its own strength, after winning 95 of the 141 wards in the city. These results were also a snub for those state Congress leaders who had harboured hopes that Mamata would not be able to clinch it without their support. The results of the latest election underscore the reality in its most convincing terms: There is no room for either the Congress or the Left in Kolkata. Not at least for quite some time to come.
Another hallmark of Kolkata’s verdict this time had been that there was no room for any third party in a completely bipolar battle between the Left and the Trinamool. Whether it was the Independent Ram Pyare Ram (a former Congress MLA) in Kolkata Port constituency or the BJP’s Mina Devi Purohit in Jorasanko, the Red versus Green polarization ensured that all of these ‘spoilers’ bite the dust.