The corridors of power at Writers’ Buildings is barely five km from Mamata Banerjee’s Kalighat residence, but it took the gutsy lady a gruelling 4,881 days since the formation of the Trinamool in January 1998 to cover that distance. On Friday the 13th, Mamata’s Trinamool Congress and the Congress alliance swept the Left Front out of power lock, stock and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Such was the intensity of the Mamata wave that the poster boys of the Left fell like ninepins and, except for a handful of members from the outgoing ministry, most cabinet ministers faced humiliating defeats.
In the end, the Trinamool-Congress combine had won 227 seats and the Left just 61 in the 294-member Assembly. The Trinamool, alone, won 184 seats, securing a comfortable majority on its own.
Just past noon, even as the results were pouring in, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee met the governor and submitted the resignation of his government, paving the way for Mamata Banerjee to take over the reins of the state. In the evening, to the cheers of her supporters, Mamata Banerjee made a trip to the Raj Bhawan to stake her party’s claim to form the next government.
On top of the list of losers was the chief minister himself, who lost from the Jadavpur constituency. Finance minister Asim Dasgupta was defeated from Khardah and Gautam Deb was humbled at Dum Dum. Asok Bhattacharya, the undisupted king of north Bengal, fell in Siliguri. And all of them lost to non-political electoral debutants.
The geographical spread of the Left rout extended from the Hills of Darjeeling to the plains of North Bengal, from the dense forests of Jangalmahal to the coastal reaches of West Midnapore, from the urban confines of the state to vast swathes of rural Bengal. Kolkata, Howrah, and the North and South 24-Parganas returned all the Trinamool and Congress candidates and, even in the red bastion of Burdwan, Mamata Banerjee made short work of her Left opponents.
“This is a victory for Maa, Mati, Manush. This is a verdict against years of exploitation, agony and oppression. I am humbled by this victory,” said Mamata Banerjee.
“It was solely Mamata Banerjee’s hard work that paid off in Bengal,” said Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, perhaps summing up the 2011 elections with remarkable brevity.
“It is an unexpected mandate. The Left Front humbly accepts the people’s verdict and promises to be a responsible Opposition,” a joint statement from Left Front chairman Biman Bose and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, there was a swing of about 9% votes away from the Left. This time, the swing away from the Front was an additional 1.5%. The only consolation for the Left was the 39.8% vote share that went their way.