ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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West Bengal

Credibility Gap


It is hard to tell who is more surprised by the poll results in West Bengal – the Left Front, which despite all its systematic and organised efforts, was still wary enough to concede that it may be the most difficult contest it had ever fought, or the TrinamulCongress alliance which, although on a dizzy high with their dynamic leader, seemed to have little pragmatic notion of what winning elections was all about. As the results poured in and the CPI (M) began to breathe easy, Trinamul’s Mamata Banerjee went underground only to surface a day later throwing wild allegations of massive rigging and collusion between the State Election Commission and the Left Front government. The reaction is certainly understandable, considering that there was little else that Banerjee could do – the euphoria she had chosen to create around her party was such as to prevent any realistic predictions of the prospects of her party and the much delayed alliance with the Congress. In the circumstance, even media analysts had expected more of a fight from the AllIndia Trinamul Congress (AITC).

As for the Left Front while there is much to rejoice over – the Front has won a resounding victory garnering 49 per cent of the votes – the CPI(M) has for the first time been unable to obtain a clear majority with only 143 seats. The Left Front won 199 seats – just four less than its 1996 tally – of the 294 seats in the assembly. The CPI(M) has won 12 fewer seats. One of these is Satgatchia described as Jyoti Basu’s pocket borough where the CPI (M) candidate, Gokul Bairagi lost to AITC’s Sonali Guha by over 6,000 votes. In 1996 Jyoti Basu had won by a margin of 11,000 votes. But Satgatchia probably tells the story of the Left Front fortunes in West Bengal. In 1977 it was here that Basu won with a margin of nearly 39,000 votes to become chief minister, but over the decades, his victory margins had decreased. Not surprisingly, commentators have concluded that Satgatchia played out the antiincumbency vote scenario, while the rest of the state pulled together for the ‘new Left’.

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