More than Mamata’s sweeping victory, a bigger setback to the Left Front came, perhaps, in the defeat of five of its top leaders in the hands of debutants.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, finance minister Asim Dasgupta, industry minister Nirupam Sen, housing minister Ashok Bhattacharya and the Left’s new poster boy, housing minister Gautam Deb, lost against candidates who made their debut in politics with this election. Worse, they lost by big margins.
Their defeat is likely to leave Bengal new legislature with an opposition that may lack in leadership.
While Dasgupta was widely expected to lose, Sen and Deb were said to be on a slippery track, but the defeat of Bhattacharjee and Bhattacharya was shocking.
The outgoing CM, who had won every election from South Kolkata’s Jadavpur constituency since 1987, lost to Manish Gupta, a career bureaucrat who served under Bhattacharjee and his predecessor, Jyoti Basu, as chief secretary of West Bengal. Gupta won by 16,777 votes.
A bigger surprise was the defeat Ashok Bhattacharya, whose Siliguri seat was seen as an impregnable red bastion.
He, of course, lost by a smaller margin (5,006) to Rudra Nath, a former dean of a local medical college.
If this election was all about the Left Front ending up on the wrong side of the development vs displacement debate, it was mirrored in the defeat of Sen.
As industry minister, he had pushed hard for the Nano project in Singur and a chemical hub in Nandigram — both triggered violent protests by farmers and marked the turning point in Bengal’s politics.
Sen lost to Ravi Ranjan Chattopadhyay, a former professor of Burdwan University, by 37,300 votes.
The voters spared none, including Deb even though he has been critical of the party’s handling of the situation in Nandigram and Singur.
Contesting from Dum Dum in north Kolkata, Deb lost to Bratya Basu by 31,497 votes. Basu, a theatre artist, turned a Trinamool supporter in the wake of the 2007 Nandigram agitation.
Deb had emerged as a rallying point for the rectification campaign within the CPI(M) and was seen as a leader of opposition in a Trinamool-led government.
Unlike the above, finance minister Asim Dasgupta’s loss came on expected lines.
His indifference to issues faced by voters in Khadah, who had chosen him in every election since 1977, finally cost him dear. He lost to Delhi-based business lobbyist Amit Mitra, who is not only new to politics but his family left Kolkata nearly 40 years ago. Mitra is widely tipped to be next finance minister of Bengal.