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 --- the Trinamool Congress was formed January 1, 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. At the time of reporting, the Trinamool-Congress combine had won 225 seats and the Left, just 63 in the 295-member Assembly. The Trinamool alone won over 180 seats, securing a comfortable majority. 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 reigns of the state.
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 from Dum Dum. Asok Bhattacharya, the undisupted king of North Bengal, fell from 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, North and South 24-Parganas returned all the Trinamool and Congress candidates and even in the red bastion of Burdwan, Mamata Banerjee 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 around noon when she emerged from her home in south Kolkata amid a sea of frenzied supporters. “People of Bengal got independence for the second time,” she added.
“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 in remarkable brevity.
“It is an unexpected mandate. The Left Front humbly accepts the people’s verdict and promises to be a responsible opposition,” said a joint statement from Left Front chairman Biman Bose and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
In 2009 Lok Sabha polls there was a swing of about 9% votes away from the Left Front. This time, the swing away from the Left was an additional 1.5%. The only consolation for the Left was the 40% votes that went their way.