Left looks for answers after Mamata red flags Communists

The red fort crumbled under the `paribartan` slogan that saw the Trinamool Congress-led alliance canter to a two-thirds majority.

Updated: May 14, 2011, 14:00 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Kolkata: "The results… indicate the end of 34 glorious years of Left rule. The result is unexpected. We accept the mandate of the people and will strive to be a responsible and constructive opposition in the Assembly."

This joint statement on Friday by outgoing Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Left Front chairman Biman Bose summed it up all what West Bengal had just witnessed.

A “Mamata tsunami” has brought to an end the 34-year-long “glorious rule” of the Left in West Bengal. The red fort crumbled under the `paribartan` (change) slogan that saw the Trinamool Congress-led alliance canter to a two-thirds majority. The Left Front led by the CPI(M), which was till yesterday considered unbeatable in its bastion, was reduced to a miniscule political power in the state it ruled for nearly four decades.

In the 294-member Assembly, Mamata Banerjee`s Trinamool Congress and its allies won 227 seats - a three-fourth majority - leaving the Left Front with 61 seats, its worst showing since coming to power in 1977.

Trinamool won a majority on its own with 184 seats, with the Congress and the SUCI getting 42 and one respectively. The CPI-M finished a miserable third for the first time with a tally of 40.

In the last elections in 2006, the picture was entirely different when the Left Front had won 235 seats.

Among the casualties in the Mamata tsunami was Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and 26 other members of his state Cabinet.

Bhattacharjee lost by a margin of 16,684 votes to former state chief secretary and first-time contestant Manish Gupta in the red citadel of Jadvapore, where the Marxists had so far won every time since the constituency was formed in 1967. Bhattacharjee, who had been winning the seat since 1987, became only the second serving chief minister of the state after Prafulla Chandra Sen in 1967 to be humbled.

Soon after, a crestfallen Bhattacharjee went to Raj Bhavan and put in his papers. Hours later, Banerjee - mobbed by her loyalists all day - met Governor MK Narayanan.

The Left has now been left to seek answers for the drubbing. The CPI(M) politburo is expected to meet next week to take stock of what is left – the popularity, vote base and territory. It is significant to note that the LDF has also lost power in Kerala – but by the slimmest margin ever, and is in power now only in Tripura, a small north-eastern state.

Sources meanwhile said Prakash Karat will not step down as the general secretary of the CPI(M) despite the loss in West Bengal and Kerala.

The Left Front`s defeat in West Bengal was total. Adding insult to injury, many of the weather beaten Left Front politicians suffered severe drubbing at the hands of opposition nominees some of whom are first time contestants and political green horns.

While Gautam Deb, CPI-M`s star campaigner in the election, lost by over 31,000 votes, Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta`s margin of defeat was over 26,000 and Agriculture Minister Naren De finished about 45,000 votes behind his Trinamool rival. Deb was defeated by theatre personality Bratya Basu, Dasgupta went down to FICCI secretary general Amit Mitra, and Sports and Sundarbans Development Minister Kanti Ganguly was stunned by films actress Debashree Roy.

The Trinamool Congress winners included leader of opposition in the outgoing Assembly Partha Chattopadhyay, Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay, and Bengali film action hero Chiranjeet (Dipak) Chakraborty. State Congress chief Manas Bhuniya also won.

The 56-year-old Banerjee, who left the Congress saying it was not sincere in fighting the Bengal Communists and formed the Trinamool 13 years back in 1998, was third time lucky.

Both in 2001 and 2006, she raised expectations of getting the better of the Communists in state Assembly polls, only to finish with poor tallies each time.

An overjoyed Banerjee described Friday`s verdict as "historic" and compared it to the country`s freedom struggle.

Addressing jubilant crowds outside her residence in South Kolkata`s Kalighat - that erupted in jubilation with supporters smearing each other in green gulal and distributing sweets - Banerjee promised to give good governance in the next five years.

"This is a complete victory of democracy... This is a historic verdict. After 34 years, Bengal has got new freedom," she thundered, addressing a crowd of thousands that kept cheering her with slogans of "Mamata Banerjee zindabad".

"This is just like a freedom struggle. We want to dedicate the victory to the people and the motherland," she said.

(With IANS inputs)