Mamata is back and she is back with a bang! Given the scale of Trinamool Congress' victory one is left wondering if there's a word called anti-incumbency in the political dictionary of current day Bengal.
Her victory is massive: Out of the 294 seats, the TMC is on course to win 213 seats. The primary challengers – CPM and Congress – stand decimated at 24 and 45 seats respectively.
The victory is big but it has not been an easy run for the 61-year-old leader despite the fact that she is a leader of the masses who has her finger on the pulse of the people.
The opposition incessantly targeted her over corruption – Narada to Saradha being the war cry – but the results indicate that none of it made any impact with the politically conscious electorate of West Bengal. The collapse of a flyover in Kolkata was hyped as a symbol of the level of corruption under TMC but that allegation also did not stick it seems, as the TMC is heading for a clean sweep in urban Kolkata.
In her first interaction with the press today, Mamata said, “I thank the common people of Bengal. People understood the opposition's lies. I was personally targeted by many, slandered and vilified, voters have ignored that." She also announced that she would take oath on May 27.
Mamata undoubtedly has a certain aura around her, a type of cult following that gets amplified when she plays the victim card, an act that has been best personified by the 'Amma' of Indian politics, J Jayalalithaa.
And like Jayalalityhaa, she too had doled out freebies by the dozen. Bengal offers everything – from rice at Rs 2/kg to free scholarships to more than 10 million minority students to free bicycles to four million boys and girls, the list is long and ensures that every section of society gets a share of the government's largesse.
The other important aspect in TMC's stunning victory is that it appears to have managed to retain control over the numerically strong minority Muslims. And when they vote en-block in constituencies where they can be the deciding factor – 87 constituencies have more than 30% Muslim population – TMC was bound to win. TMC had won 61 of these seats in 2011.
To be fair to her government, there has also been a considerable improvement in the sectors like roads, water and electricity. With over 5000 kms of road taken for renovation in the last 5 years, the 'Poriborton' she promised when she rode to power was visible on the ground.
Mamata's victory will have a resonance at the national level too. Her neighbour Nitish Kumar is busy working the switches to emerge as the opposition's face to take on Narendra Modi in 2019 but after this victory, Mamata may be inclined to join the race.