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Mandate Of Bengal

Howrah BypollElections come and go, political parties fight it out with blood and sweat and finally the voice of the people reigns supreme. West Bengal, which had been under the rule of the Communists for over three decades, had a bloody tradition of elections, where candidates against the ruling party were threatened, intimated, their family members kidnapped, which in most cases led to the huge victory margins of the Left Front in elections. Things changed a lot post 2006, with S.Y. Qureshi as the Chief Election Commissioner, who revolutionised the process of polling, leading to a true reflection of people’s mandate.

In 2011, riding high on the anti-Left mood in the state, and the credibility established as a resolute fighter who cares for people, Mamata Banerjee unseated the Left from power and became the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Some bad decisions and actions and manufactured outrage in TV studios outside Bengal almost led people to believe that people of Bengal want this government out at the earliest instant. It would be naive to say that the current regime of Bengal has performed outstandingly. It would also be foolish to assume that this government would convert Bengal into an “oasis of peace” (remember Bantala rape?) within 2 years of being in power. But has the eletorate in Bengal given up hope on the current regime? If a series of elections in the past 2 years have to be believed, it definitely has not; the latest bypoll for Howrah Lok Sabha seat is a good example in this regard.

The first election in Bengal ever since Trinamool broke away from the UPA, the Howrah bypoll was touted as the “litmus test” for Mamata Banerjee. In the past two elections in Howrah, Congress and TMC fought together, leading to a huge loss in votes for the CPM, so much so that in 2011 Bidhan Sabha polls, Left did not have a single MLA from this Lok Sabha seat.

In 2011, while the % of votes polled by the alliance was 54%, Left managed a meager 37%. Even BJP, which has a hold in pockets of Howrah, managed to garner 5% of total votes polled. This time, TMC and Congress fought separately and received 44% and 10% votes respectively while CPM increased its tally to 41%. The BJP did not take part in the contest. If one goes through the history of polling in Howrah, one would see undivided Congress or Congress without TMC had an average vote share of 15% in Howrah. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Congress lost 4% of its share. However, the total vote share of TMC+Cong remains static at 54%. So how did CPM raise its vote%? Clearly the vote-bank of BJP (5%) must have gone that way.

Jangipur BypollLet us move back in time a little. Last year, after Trinamool pulled out of UPA, Jangipur constituency went to polls. Pranab Mukherjee’s son contested in the election. In 2009, when the current President of India was a joint candidate of TMC-Congress, he won against Left by a margin of 1,28,149 votes. However, in the bypoll TMC did not field a candidate as a mark of respect for Pranab Da. It was a two-way fight and his son managed to scrape through by a margin of 2,500 votes. Compare this to the vote margin in Howrah in 2009 and 2013. Despite an alliance in 2009, late Ambica Banerjee won by a margin of 37,000 votes, while Prasun Banerjee managed to defeat his rival by 27,000 votes; this despite a three-way contest and break-up of TMC and Congress. Does this not prove that TMC’s strength in Bengal is on a surge while Congress is facing a rout?

For the cynics, i would provide another example. Last year 6 municipalities had gone to polls. Trinamool, Congress and Left fought separately and won 4, 1 and 1 municipality respectively. In 2007, the result was TMC 1, Congress 2, Left 3. Clearly, another indication that people’s mandate was in favour of the current government of West Bengal. Panchayat polls later this year and municipal elections in 2015 would give a better picture of the voice of the people. As of now, i am contended to assume (not without logic) that the hope that people had placed on Poriborton, has not thinned yet.

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