Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee is by far the biggest star of Assembly polls 2016. On second thoughts, the BJP could be another big contender for the post, for pulling off the historic win in Assam, but for now let’s focus on the rise and rise of Mamata Banerjee. How she pulled off another landslide win (bigger than 2011) when the mainstream perception said that her popularity was dwindling.
Didi has stormed to power and how! TMC clinched 2/3 majority just by itself. The duo of Congress and the Left Front has been routed from the state. According to the latest figures available, Mamata is seen to claim 215 seats in the 294-seat Assembly. That is a massive win, much bigger than 2011 where TMC by itself picked up 184 seats. Back then, their alliance with Congress fetched them a total of 226 seats.
And who does Mamata give credit to for her win?
“I thank the people of Bengal for having faith in the Trinamool Congress and giving us more than 2/3 majority,” said Mamata at a press conference in Kolkata.
“Elections can’t be won on the basis of lies…Efforts were made to fool people….There was a malicious campaign against us…And the people have given a fitting reply to those who conspired against us,” she added while attacking her arch rival, the Left.
Experts believe Mamata’s populist measures – rice at Rs 2 a kilo, giving away cycles to the poor, rolling out numerous scholarships, building roads, transferring cash to those affected by the Saradha chit fund scam, and upping the social spending in general, have ensured that she storms back to power. These measures helped Mamata spread her wings even in North Bengal where traditionally the Left has been strong. It is again the welfare schemes that have helped her offset the dent done by Saradha and Narada.
The Opposition’s slogan against TMC, ‘Saradha to Narada’ proved to be a damp squib. At least the results show that.
Mamata conveniently blamed it all on ‘conspiracy’ – conspiracy by the Left, the Congress, the BJP and a large section of the local media in Bengal.
But it is a fact that this time around, more of rural Bengal has deserted the Left. The Left Front performed worse than they did in 2011 and in all likelihood they will finish only in the third spot in Bengal, even behind the Congress.
So what went wrong with the Left? Well, there was nothing right about their strategy in the first place. They could never really revive themselves from the 2011 disaster. So, in 2016 they had a bigger disaster to deal with. CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra who was contesting from Narayangarh from West Midnapore district is all set to lose with a big margin.
The combined Left-Congress force turned out to be of no match for the TMC. During introspection, the Left is bound to raise the question if it made a mistake in allying with the Congress.
Left analysts believe the party made an effort to revive itself too late in the day. It was only the CPM plenum in Kolkata in December 2015 that got the cadre moving.
Trends predicting Mamata’s victory came in as early as 9:30 am on Thursday morning. By then it was clear that she was set to be West Bengal’s chief minister for the second straight term.
But Mamata critics say that her first five years in power was actually a honeymoon period which, is now over. The next five years for her will be critical. She needs to do a lot more in Bengal in the coming years if she wants to continue enjoying her ‘star’ status.