Mamata Banerjee fended off a spirited challenge by a resurgent BJP in West Bengal with a landslide victory for her Trinamool Congress on Sunday for a third consecutive term, and the saffron party and the LDF were poised to form government again in Assam and Kerala respectively while the DMK stormed back to power in Tamil Nadu after a gap of 10 years.
The mercurial Banerjee, however, lost the Nandigram seat in a close fight with BJP candidate and her former lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI) website updated at 11.15 pm, Adhikari won by a margin of 1,956 votes to retain the prestigious seat. The TMC has demanded a recount.
The TMC’s spectacular win in West Bengal in many ways is seen as a victory of the non-saffron parties who hope to capitalise on the triumph in the eastern state, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to revive attempts to form a Federal front to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
The victories come barely a month after Banerjee wrote to Opposition leaders urging them to unite against the BJP.
“It’s a victory for Bengal’s people it’s Banglar joy’ (Bengal’s victory),” Banerjee told her party workers.
Banerjee, set to be chief minister for a third term, however, stopped celebrations by her party workers and indicated that her first priority after the victory would be “combating the pandemic” which has been running amok in the state.
The TMC’s main rival, the BJP was stymied in its ambition of winning the state with a total tally of wins and leads in just 74 constituencies (21 wins and 53 leads), with 38 per cent of the votes counted so far. It is far less than the 120 assembly segments where it wrested a majority when it won 18 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections.
The actual results were a bitter let down for the BJP as Prime Minister Modi had staked his prestige in declaring his party was set to win over 200 seats after the first few phases of the unprecedented eight-phase election.
Modi and his home minister Amit Shah campaigned extensively throughout the state spending almost every other day of a one-and-a-half month long bruising campaign trying to breach the Trinamool Congress’ fortress Bengal.
Countering the high voltage campaign where, besides Modi and Shah, the saffron party fielded half a dozen chief ministers and Union Cabinet ministers, the TMC presented just Banerjee with the slogan ‘Bangla nijer meyekei chay’ (Bengal wants her daughter) and a promise to expand its popular ‘Duare Sarkar’ (government at your doorsteps) programme.
In the run up to the elections, the BJP had Banerjee on the defensive by campaigning against corruption involving TMC leaders and the ‘cut money’ (bribery) culture affecting citizens’ everyday life. It also gained traction by playing the caste and religious cards.
However, Banerjee’s appeal to ‘Bangaliana’ (Bengaliness), a cultural identity which defies divisions of caste and religion, seem to have worked with the electorate.
As did the image of a lone woman combatting a galaxy of leaders from the Hindi hinterland trying to breach her fortress.
The prime minister’s repeated taunts of “Didi, O Didi” in his speeches too did not go down well in a state where women traditionally enjoyed a high social and economic status and where women remained a major vote bank for the TMC. The repeated use of Hindi too was not liked in a state where linguistic identity politics had in recent years gained ground.
DMK wins TN
After a decade in opposition, the DMK won a convincing victory over arch-rival AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the ruling party managed to emerge as a formidable opposition, overcoming the burden of ten year anti-incumbency to an extent.
M K Stalin, the 68-year-old DMK president, is all set to become the Chief Minister for the first time. During his party’s previous tenure, he has been the Deputy Chief Minister and Local Administration Minister as well.
As counting of votes polled in the April 6 TN Assembly election progressed on Sunday, it became amply clear that the DMK was dislodging the AIADMK from the seat of power.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked Tamil Nadu people who voted for the National Democratic Alliance and said his party would continue to work for state’s welfare and nurturing Tamil culture.
“I laud our workers who worked hard,” he added.
Round after round, the DMK and its allies improved their tally and the Stalin-led party together with its partners, appeared winning at least 155 seats in the 234-member Assembly while 118 seats is the minimum number required for a simple majority. The Election Commission is yet to declare winners for all the 234 segments and also complete data on winning margin was not available, till 10 pm, Sunday.
Left headed for second term
The ruling LDF in Kerala seems to be heading for a second consecutive term as it has won 70 of the 140 seats and is leading in another 29 segments, according to the Election Commission.
This is the first time in over 40 years that an elected government is retaining power in Kerala, bucking the trend of swinging between communists and the Congress led UDF.
The UDF has won 32 seats and is leading in nine, while BJP has failed to win any seats.
Prominent winners include Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his cabinet colleagues K K Shailaja, M M Mani, A C Moideen, KadakampallySurendran, Kadannappally Ramachandran, K Krishnankutty, T P Ramakrishnan and K Chandrasekharan.
BJP-led NDA set to form govt in Assam again
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) or “Mitrajot” (Alliance of Friends) is set to form the government in Assam for the second consecutive time, as the ruling alliance according to the latest trends is likely to win 75 seats in the 126-member Assembly. The Congress-led “Mahajot” (Grand Alliance) is expected to win 45 seats. All important candidates of the BJP, including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is seeking re-election from Majuli Assembly constituency in eastern Assam, state Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma from Jalukbari Assembly constituency and state BJP President Ranjeet Kumar Dass from Patacharkuchi Assembly constituency, are leading on their respective seats.
Many top Congress leaders, including state Congress President Ripun Bora and Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia are trailing in the Gohpur and Nazira Assembly seats, respectively. Of the 126 seats, the BJP is leading in 56 seats while its ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is leading in eleven seats and United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) in eight seats. Though the opposition Congress-led Grand Alliance performed poorly in most parts of Assam, it performed a little better in the Bengali dominated southern Assam.
NDA on course to form govt in Puducherry
The AINRC-led NDA looked all set to capture power in Puducherry by winning 13 assembly seats and leading in two when the results for 22 out of the total 30 segments were declared on Sunday.
The Congress-led front emerged victorious in five constituencies and the independents in four as the counting for votes polled in the April 6 elections, was still underway.
According to the Election Commission, the AINRC secured 10, BJP three, DMK three, Congress two and the independents four.
Chief Electoral Officer Shurbir Singh told PTI that the BJP nominee A John Kumar was declared elected from Kamaraj Nagar.
Kumar defeated his immediate Congress rival and former Industries Minister M O H F Shah Jahan.
John Kumar was elected from Kamaraj Nagar in the by election held in November 2019 on Congress ticket.
He has now retained the segment but on different party ticket.
Kumar joined BJP in February after quitting Congress and contested the April 6 poll locking horns with former Industries Minister.
M Vaithianathan of Congress defeated BJP’s V Saminathan, who is president of Puducherry unit of the party, by a margin of 5,652 votes in the Lawspet constituency. Saminathan was one of the nominated legislators in the outgoing Assembly. Vaithianathan quit the AINRC a few months ago and joined the Congress. Sixteen seats are required for a simple majority in the 30-member assembly.
Modi congratulates Mamata, Vijayan, Stalin
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday congratulated West Bengal and Kerala Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee and Pinarayi Vijayan. Modi also congratulated Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Chief M.K. Stalin. In a series of tweets, Modi thanked the voters for supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Congratulations to Mamata Didi for Trinamool Congress’s win in West Bengal. The Centre will continue to extend all possible support to the West Bengal government to fulfil people’s aspirations and to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic,” Modi tweeted.
In another tweet, the Prime Minister said, “I would like to thank my sisters and brothers of West Bengal who have blessed our party. From a negligible presence earlier, BJP’s presence has significantly increased. BJP will keep serving the people. I applaud each and every Karyakarta (party worker) for their spirited effort in the polls.”
Congratulating Pinarayi Vijayan, Modi tweeted,”I would like to congratulate Pinarayi Vijayan and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) for winning the Kerala Assembly elections. We will continue working together on a wide range of subjects and to ensure India mitigates the Covid-19 global pandemic.” Thanking the people of Kerala, Modi said, “Gratitude to the people of Kerala who supported our party during these elections. I appreciate the efforts of our industrious party karyakartas, who will continue serving the people of the state and strengthen the party at the grassroots level.” Congratulating Stalin for the DMK’s victory in Tamil Nadu, Modi tweeted, “Congratulations to M K Stalin and the DMK for the victory in the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. We will work together for enhancing national progress, fulfilling regional aspirations and defeating the Covid-19 pandemic.” Thanking the people of Tamil Nadu, Modi said, “I would like to thank the people of Tamil Nadu who supported the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). I assure the people of Tamil Nadu that we will keep working towards the state’s welfare and to further popularise the glorious Tamil culture. I applaud our karyakartas for their hard work.”