Left Front storms back with three-fourths majority in WB

Left Front storms back with three-fourths majority in WB
Kolkata, May 11 (PTI) Riding the development-friendly image of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the CPI(M)-led Left Front brushed aside a disjointed opposition to storm back to power in West Bengal for a record seventh time with more than three-fourths majority in the assembly polls.

The Front bagged 235 seats in the 292-member assembly leaving rivals Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and Congress far behind at 29 and 21 respectively.

It thus substantially improved its 2001 tally of 199 mainly at the expense of Trinamool Congress which had 60 seats in the outgoing house. The Congress also won five seats less than in 2001.

TC and Congress had fought the previous election jointly but this time they failed to forge an alliance as Mamata Banerjee refused to accept the Congress' precondition to part ways with her NDA partner BJP.

Immediately after the verdict was out, a beaming Bhattacharjee thanked the people of the state at the CPI(M) headquarters saying "all credit goes to the people." Mamata, who had always alleged rigging by the LF for her defeats, however, admitted this time the polls were fair but indirectly blamed the media for the results sarcastically saying "they (media) are the man of the match." Congress, however, held Mamata responsible for the result while accepting the verdict delivered by the people.

"It is because of Mamata Banerjee's rejection of Congress' request to desert BJP and the united nationalist and secular forces that had a direct fall-out on the result to the benefit of CPI(M)," Congress state General Secretary Manas Bhunya said.

The CPI-M alone gained absolute majority after five years bagging 176 seats while other front partners Forward Bloc bagged 23, RSP-20, CPI-8, WBSP-4, DSP (P)-1, RJD-1 and Left- supported independents two.

Trinamool Congress' poll ally BJP drew a blank.

The prominent winners of the Left Front were Industry Minister Nirupam Sen, Finance Minister Ashim Dasgupta, Health Minister Surya Kanta Mishra, Urban Development Minister Ashok Bhattacharya, Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty, Food Minister Naren De, Civil Defence Minister Srikumar Mukherjee and Jail Minister Biswanath Chowdhury.

Sobhandev Chattopadhyay, Javed Khan and Partha Chatterjee were the notable winners of Trinamool Congress. Former WBPCC chief Somen Mitra also romped home.

Left Front Chief Whip Rabin Deb, former city mayor and Congress candidate Subrata Mukherjee, former CLP leader Atish Sinha and Chief Whip Abdul Mannan and senior Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy fell by the wayside.

Except in Cooch Behar, where it had lost two seats compared to the 2001 poll, the Left Front either maintained its tally or made major gains particularly in North and South 24 Parganas districts.

The CPI-M-led front inflicted a serious blow to Trinamool Congress in both South and North 24 Parganas districts spread in both urban and rural areas.

The Front bagged 21 seats in South 24 Parnagas, nine more than its tally in 2001 poll and 24 in North 24 Parganas which was six more against its tally in the last poll.

Mamata, who had earlier claimed that an informal alliance was being worked out at the grassroot level and rubbished the exit polls predictions of 200-plus seats for the Left Front, however, said "certainly I am not disappointed." She said her party would make a thorough analysis of the reasons for defeat, but rejected the possiblity of severing ties with the BJP and in turn invited Congress to join hands with her to form an anti-left alliance in the state.

It was the fourth best performance by the Left Front in their 29 years rule in the state as they bettered their tally of 1977 (232), 1996 (203) and 2001 (199). Their best record was in 1987 when they had won 251 seats followed by 1991 (244) and 1982 (238).

Veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, who ruled the state for 24 years before handing over the reins to Bhattacharjee in 2000, dubbed the victory as 'unprecedented' and said that Bhattacharjee should now have to play a more active role at the Centre given the differences between the left parties and the Congress-led UPA government.

Bhattacharjee, who had to take additional responsiblity of managing the Front's campaign due to the sudden demise of CPI(M)'s state secretary and master strategist, Anil Biswas, barely a month before the polls, won by a record margin of more than 58,000 votes from Jadavpur in south Kolkata.

Most of the LF ministers also won their states barring Labour minister Mohammad Amin and Parliamentary Affairs minister Probodh Sinha, who lost.

Reacting to the record victory, LF Chairman Biman Bose said that it was achievement of the policies and principles of the Front and urged party workers to work hard to win over those who did not vote for the left.

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