Kolkata: Voters in south Kolkata's Bhowanipore on Sunday gave their "ghorer meye" (daughter of the house) Mamata Banerjee the mandate she needed to continue as Bengal CM in the form of her biggest-ever victory margin of 58,835 votes in an assembly poll. Trinamool also retained the Jangipur and Shamsherganj seats.
"There were so many conspiracies against me. The people of Bhowanipore have given a befitting reply to those conspiracies and the conspirators...You have inspired me to work harder," she said, basking in the afterglow of a comeback just five months after a rare poll setback in Nandigram. "They sent 3,500 central forces to this small constituency. But the people of Bhowanipore have given an answer on behalf of Bengal and India," Mamata said in her victory speech, punctuated with chants of "Didi, Didi" from the crowd.
Jakir Hossain won Jangipur for Trinamool by a staggering 92,480 votes while Amirul Islam emerged victorious in Shamsherganj to maintain the party's strength of 213 in the 294-member assembly. Party seniors said the ease of Mamata's victory, more than anything else, would help set the agenda for the four by-polls later this month and the civic elections after that.
"Every ward has given us a lead. This is a seat where Hindus stay with Muslims and Sikhs and Bengalis stay with Gujaratis, Punjabis, Oriyas, Biharis and people from Uttar Pradesh. I thank every one of them," she said. For Mamata, the victory margin of 58,000-plus votes bettered her 2011 vote tally of 54,213, also in a by-election. The margin was also more than double of Trinamool's April 26 victory by 28,719 votes, when it had trailed in two wards (Chakraberia-Paddapukur and Alipore). Mamata got 71.9% of the total votes cast, leaving only 22.2% for BJP candidate Priyanka Tibrewal. BJP had garnered a vote share of more than 35% barely five months ago.
CPM also took a body blow, getting only 3.5 % of the vote share and losing its deposit in a seat labelled "mini India" during the bypoll campaign. Mamata stressed all these points and more in her speech from the lane outside her Kalighat home, flanked by her sisters-in-law, nephew and party national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee and his school-going daughter. The backdrop was a giant photo-collage that supporters had put up a few minutes earlier. Emblazoned across the collage was the coinage "Modishahsurmardini (slayer of the Modi-Shah asura)".
She cautioned party workers against bringing out victory rallies, asking them to instead focus on helping flood victims across the state. The date for Mamata's swearing-in as an MLA is awaiting Raj Bhavan's nod, assembly speaker Biman Banerjee said.
Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar said the party accepted the people’s verdict. "But we have to ask whether the result truly reflects the mandate of the people when only 57% have voted," he added. Bhowanipore, like the rest of Kolkata, usually has a turnout lower than the rest of the state even in general elections.
Losing candidate Tibrewal said getting over 25,000 votes "in a contest against the CM" was an achievement for her. "I am overwhelmed by the affection of people and the commitment of my party leadership and workers," she said, admitting that "organisational weakness" plagued the party in Bhowanipore.