TMC leads on 184 seats in bipolar Bengal contest
Early trends during the vote count in West Bengal that began at 8am on Sunday showed the state heading towards a bipolar contest, with the incumbent Trinamool Congress leading on 184 of 292 seats and contender BJP on 84.
The Sanjukta Morcha or the alliance between the Congress, Left parties and cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui’s newly launched Indian Secular Front (ISF) was yet to make a mark.
At Nandigram in East Midnapore, which witnessed one of the most high-pitched poll battles in recent times in the state, chief minister Mamata Banerjee was trailing behind her protégé-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari till around 11am. Adhikari was leading by more than 8,000 votes.
“Even though the postal ballot was hinting at a neck-and-neck contest between the TMC and the BJP, as the day progressed and counting of EVMs started, the trend showed that Bengal was turning greener and the saffron colour was fading,” said political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty.
A party needs to cross the halfway mark – 147 -- in the 294-member assembly to emerge victorious. However, votes will be counted on 292 seats as polling to two seats in Murshidabad district was revoked after the deaths of the TMC candidates due to Covid-19.
While top leaders of the BJP including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah had projected that the party would win more than 200 seats, poll strategist Prashant Kishor had said it would not get even a 100. Banerjee recently said the BJP would be restricted to 70 seats.
While the TMC got around 48.7% votes, the BJP’s share was about 37%. The Congress and the CPI(M) got around 2.7% and 4.6% of the vote share, respectively.
“These are just early trends. There are still many rounds to go. We have to wait for a few more hours to know what we are heading for,” said Jay Prakash Majumdar, the BJP’s state vice-president.
“The trend is clear. TMC is heading for its third term. In Nandigram there were some areas where the BJP has its sway. But ultimately Mamata Baneree will have the last smile,” said a TMC minister.
A majority of exit polls released after the eighth and final round of voting on Thursday suggested that the ruling TMC may have an edge over the BJP, although the results may be too close to call.
The Left-Congress-Indian Secular Front combine is projected to be a distant third, the exit polls indicated.
If the BJP manages to pull off a win, it will be a remarkable achievement for a party that won only three of the 294 assembly seats in 2016, although it won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2019.
If the TMC manages to hold on to power for a third term -- despite the likelihood of a slim margin -- it will be a feat for chief minister Banerjee, whose party was weakened by defections to the BJP and is facing significant anti-incumbency.