Mamata wins bypoll on Bhabanipur seat by massive margin

By, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Oct 04, 2021 01:48 AM IST

With a turnout of around 57%, it was the lowest showing at poll in Bhawanipore in 10 years, according to ECI.

Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee on Sunday swept the Bhabanipur by-election, polling 58,835 votes more than the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Priyanka Tibrewal, a landslide victory that came months after the 66-year-old leader lost the Nandigram seat in the assembly election.

Mamata Banerjee and TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee after TMC's thumping victory in Bhabanipur by-election.(PTI)
Mamata Banerjee and TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee after TMC's thumping victory in Bhabanipur by-election.(PTI)

Tibrewal, who the BJP pitched at Banerjee’s main opponent, ended the race with only 26,428 votes against Banerjee’s 85,263, which meant that the West Bengal chief minister secured 71.9% of the total 118,580 votes (including 705 postal ballots) cast on September 30.

With a turnout of around 57%, it was the lowest showing at poll in Bhawanipore in 10 years, according to ECI.

“I want to thank the people of Bhabanipur and West Bengal, who were waiting for these results. The people of Bhabanipur have given a befitting reply to the conspiracy that was hatched to defeat me in Nandigram. I don’t want to say much on a sub-judice matter. The counting is over, and we have won the seat,” Banerjee said while addressing mediapersons and party workers outside her house in the constituency’s Kalighat area.

The TMC won in all eight civic wards in the constituency, where a large section of the voters – 46% -- is non-Bengali. Of this, the biggest section is formed by Hindus and Sikhs. Bengali and Hindi-speaking Muslims make up for around 20% of the constituency’s voters.

Banerjee, who often refers to the regions as a “mini-India”, said: “There are people from Punjab, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. For the first time, we have won in all the wards because of their support. I remember falling behind in two wards in the 2016 polls. I am thankful to all these people. The nation was watching this election alongside Bengal.”

While campaigning for the bypoll, Banerjee even coined the slogan “B for Bhawanipore, B for Bharat”.

“The support from non-Bengali voters played a key role,” transport minister Firhad Hakim said after the results were announced.

Banerjee took oath as the chief minister on May 5 and it was necessary for the TMC leader to get elected within six months to retain the post.

In the March-April polls, TMC’s Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay had won against BJP’s Rudranil Ghosh by a margin of 28,719 votes. Chattopadhyay was, however, asked to step down from the seat so Banerjee could contest from her old constituency.

The BJP’s state headquarters in central Kolkata wore a deserted look on Sunday.

“The outcome of the three assembly polls in West Bengal are not in line with our expectation but we accept it gracefully. After being demolished in Nandigram, Mamata Banerjee may have survived in Bhawanipore for now, but it has never happened that a losing candidate chose to thrust herself as the chief minister, in violation of all democratic norms and proprietary,” the BJP said in a statement.

Tibrewal, who lost the March-April polls from central Kolkata constituency of Entally, polled even fewer votes than Ghosh, who got 44,786 votes.

While accepting her defeat, Tibrewal levelled allegations of rigging against the TMC. “I gracefully accept the defeat and congratulate Didi (Banerjee) but the TMC should not have ferried in fake voters. I caught some of them. Our organisation was not so strong in Bhawanipore,” said Tibrewal.

“The BJP always accepts the verdict of the people. The results, however, leave some questions because only 57% people had cast their votes. We are thankful to those who supported us,” said BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar.

Sunday’s outcome triggered rumblings in the BJP’s state unit, with several leaders questioning the decision to field Tibrewal, who contested polls for the first time this year, against Banerjee.

“Our leaders need to understand that elections are fought on the ground and not from our offices which were found empty today. We could have done much better had we fielded an educated Bengali gentleman. Tibrewal could not even match the performance of Rudranil Ghosh,” said Joy Banerjee, a former actor and leader from Birbhum district.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate Srijeeb Biswas polled only 4,226 votes. This is first time CPI(M) has failed to win even a single seat in the state since Independence.

The TMC also retained the Samserganj and Jangipur seats, where voting was simultaneously held on September 30. The two seats fall in the Murshidabad district which has the state’s highest Muslim population of 66.28%.

In Samserganj, which recorded a turnout of 79.92%, TMC’s Amirul Islam defeated his Congress rival by 26,111 votes.

In Jangipur, which registered a 77.63% voter turnout, Jakir Hossain defeated BJP’s Sujit Das by 92,613 votes.

After the results of the bypoll, TMC’s tally in the 294-member legislative assembly has risen to 215. The BJP has 71 legislators. Four of the leaders who won on BJP tickets have since joined TMC, and two did not take oath as MLAs to retain their Lok Sabha seats.

TMC leaders said the CM’s victory in Bhawanipore has overshadowed her Nandigram defeat in the March-April polls, where she lost to her protégé-turned-adversary, Suvendu Adhikari, in East Midnapore’s Nandigram constituency. Adhikari is now the leader of opposition in the state assembly.

In 2011, when Banerjee led the TMC to end the Left Front’s 34-year-long regime, she won the Bhawanipore bypoll with 54,213 votes. A voter turnout of less than 45% was recorded in that election.

In 2016, when the voter turnout was 66.83%, Banerjee defeated Congress candidate Deepa Dasmunsi by 25,301 votes.

“There was a conspiracy against me. An injury was inflicted on my leg. We have challenged the Nandigram results in court. I don’t want to elaborate since the matter is sub judice,” Banerjee said Sunday. Banerjee has challenged the Nandigram election result in Calcutta high court.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India on Sunday sent a letter urging the state government to ensure no victory processions are held in the state in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to avoid post-poll violence.

Banerjee, too, asked party workers to exercise restraint. “Help people affected by floods in the districts. That will be the real celebration,” she said.

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    Tanmay Chatterjee has spent more than three decades covering regional and national politics, internal security, intelligence, defence and corruption. He also plans and edits special features on subjects ranging from elections to festivals.

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