That Mamata Banerjee will win the by-poll at her citadel Bhabanipur was beyond doubt. The question was whether she would cross the margin (28,719) by which last May TMC candidate Sobhanden Chattopadhyan won from the constituency by securing 57.71 per cent votes. West Bengal CM has not only increased the margin by a long shot (58,832), she has bagged hopping near about 80 per cent votes.
After the victory, Mamata Banerjee thanked the people of Bhabanipur for giving her new encouragement, and said, “Bengal was hurt when we lost one constituency (Nandigram). There were many conspiracies. But Bhabanipur defeated the conspiracy. I am indebted to the people of Bhabanipur.” While her relief after the victory that will allow her to continue as the chief minister was palpable, she also pointed out that Bhabanipur has 44 per cent non-Bengali voters, and she has got leads from all the municipal wards. She also expressed happiness that this was her biggest margin from Bhabanipur that earlier returned her twice to the assembly.
Along with Bhabanipur, the TMC has won two other assembly seats of Bengal too. Both were from the Muslim-dominated Murshidabad district and the BJP was not in the fray in a meaningful way. TMC has won it big in Jangipur, but in Shamsherganj the Congress has put up a good fight. Though it lost the seat (which was with the TMC even in 2016), it has increased its vote share compared to what the Left-Cong combine candidate got in 2016. However last time Rezaul Haque, a rebel Congressman too fought from the constituency as an independent candidate and got 26 per cent vote.
The election of this round has brought no good news for the main opposition party BJP. It was not expected that they could recalibrate their strategy and put up a brave fight at Bhabanipur. But the way Priyanka Tibrewal got trounced in this election shows the BJP will still have to go a long way to challenge the TMC in the assembly polls. The only consolation prize they have is that the other opposition parties (the Left and the Congress) remain marginalised, particularly in Hindu-dominated areas of Bengal.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)