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Elections 2001

West Bengal: World Record Wins Continue

Was it Now or Never? Mamta resigns as Trinamool chief, cries rigging while the Left celebrates historic win

West Bengal: World Record Wins Continue
West Bengal: World Record Wins Continue

Total Seats :294

Parties Won
Left Front 199
Trinamul + Congress 86
Others 7

Mamata Banerjee's 'now or never' battle resulted in the rout of the TMC-Congress combine and had the leader locking herself inside her Kalighat residence, after she had quit the post of TMC chairperson. But for the ruling Left Front it was celebration time. The LF 's romp, attributed by many to the "making up of lost ground" by new CM Buddhadev Bhattcharjee, and the late alliance between the two congresses, not to speak of Panja's tantrums, was that much sweeter after the exit polls had predicted a close fight even while giving the LF a slight edge.

Bearing on National Politics
With this win, the Left front has won for a record 6th. time in succession, after having been in government for 25 years continuously. Reacting to the Left Front's victory, veteran CPM leader Jyoti Basu said the front's return to power for thesixth consecutive term would have a bearing on national politics. The former chief minister expressed hope that the front would perform 'much better' by removing all weaknesses and implementing its plans and programmes more effectively. He urged the opposition to cooperate with the new government.

Swearing-in date to be finalised on May 17
CPI(M) state secretary Anil Biswas said the party's state committee would meet here on may 17 to finalise the date of swearing-in of the sixth Left Front government.

The meeting would also formally endorse the name of Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, who steered the front to the unprecedented victory in the absence of Jyoti Basu, as the leader of the LF legislature party in the assembly.

Winners and Losers
Among prominent lf winners were chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, finance minister Ashim Dasgupta, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, environment minister Manab Mukherjee and speaker Hasim Abdul Halim. Left Front ministers Kshiti Goswami, Partha De, Satya Ranjan Mahato, Biren Moitra, Monohar Tirkey and front chief whip Rabin Mandal lost.

CLP leader Atish Sinha, Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, TMC policy-making body chairman Pankaj Banerjee and former WBPCC president Somen Mitra and filmstar Tapas Pal were prominent TMC leaders who won the poll.

Rigging, says TMC
Alleging that large-scale rigging and electoral malpractices by the ruling left front were responsible for TMC's defeat, the party policy-making body chairman Pankaj Banerjee earlier said, "We are ashamed and we apologise to the people for failing to create the atmosphere for them to vote freely.".

"Egoism, Arrogance and Disrespect for Elders": Panja
Dissident trinamool congress leader Ajit Panja squarely blamed party chief Mamata Banerjee for its poor performance, but said it would be wrong on her part to resign from the leadership of the party. "Mamata is young. She should continue her fight," he said. Mamata Banerjee, who he said had been issuing 'incoherent statements' after the poll results which was 'amazing', should take a 'lesson' from the poll results and respect the mandate of the people," he suggested.

Earlier his brother Ranjit Panja, also a Trinamool MP, termed TMC's poll performance as "shocking" and said its withdrawal from NDA might not have gone down well with the people.

Echoing Panja, BJP leader Tapan Sikdar held Banerjee responsible for facilitating the left front's return to power, saying her "wrong decision to dissociate with the NDA and ally with the congress for electoral gains has helped the CPM."

WBPCC vice-president Pradip Bhattacharya said the TMC-Congress tie-up formed hurriedly just before the elections could not percolate down to the lower levels.

"We Are Not With NDA and We Are Not Going To Return To the NDA": Mamata
Mamata ruled out returning to ruling nda at the centre and declared her alliance with congress would continue even as NDA convener George Fernandes said the combine's doors were "wide open" for her.

Launching her first attack on the Vajpayee govenment since parting ways with NDA two months back, the firebrand leader told reporters, "We are not with NDA and we are not going to return to the NDA". She accused the Vajpayee government of adopting a 'vindictive attitude' towardsTMCduring the assembly polls for quitting NDA and said its alliance with congress would continue.

Meanwhile, in Patna, Fernandes said the TMC chief was welcome to join the NDA again but that the decision had to be taken by her. "She is welcome back into the NDA, but the choice has to be hers," Fernandes, whose resignation Banerjee had demanded after the tehelka tapes, said.

In her press conference when asked if TMC's leaving the NDA and severing ties with BJP had affected its poll prospect, Mamamta said the BJP had drawn a blank in the election.

On who would be the leader of opposition, banerjee said the TMC legislature party would meet here tomorrow and elect its leader.

"This Election Commission Has No Right To Continue And It Should Go"
Asked if her party would boycott the swearing-in ceremony of the new LF government, she said the TMC legislature party would decide it. "But this government has no right to take oath".

Refusing to admit that it was her party's organisational failure which might have led to tc's defeat, she argued if it was correct then how could TMC candidates win from marxist strongholds like Rajarhat, Sonarpur and Satgachia seats. "The CPI(M) did not allow the people to vote".

She alleged that "the entire administration and the election commission worked for a particular party. The EC even changed observers during polling day. Despite repeated attempts I could not contact chief election commissioner M.S. Gill on polling day. Whenever I called up, Gill was neither in his office nor at his residence. "This election commission has no right to continue and it should go", she said.

Alleging that the CPM had taken recourse to 'state-sponsored rigging' on may 10, the TMC chief said in some constituencies like Keshpur, Garbeta, Khanakool and Arambagh the CPM's margin of victory ranged from a staggering 75,000 to over one lakh votes. She claimed that apart from the metropolis, voter identity cards were not checked in other parts of the state.

Stating that there was cent per cent rigging in these constituencies, she said, "it is a matter of shame for the election commission". The results, she claimed, did not reflect the people's mandate and "we will not accept this shameless government.

But our MLAs will give a fitting reply in the state assembly", she said. On chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's seeking cooperation from opposition parties, she retorted, "We will cooperate the way they have cooperated with us on may 10, the polling day".

Alliance To Stay: Pranab Mukherjee
West Bengal Pradesh Congress Chief Pranab Mukherjee meanwhile said his party's alliance with the Trinamool Congress would continue inspite of the combine's poll debacle in the state.

"Our alliance with The Trinamool Congress will be maintained. Now that the election is over our alliance will work out political action", Mukherjee said after a meeting with the Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee at her residence.

To a question, mukherjee said the opposition leader in the new assembly would be elected from the Trinamool Congress legislature party as it had the requisite number of MLAs. Mukherjee said he would meet AICC president Sonia Gandhi and sumbit a report to her on the performance of the Congress in the just-ended assembly elections in the state.

Asked if he would resign as the WBPCC president, Mukherjee said he was appointed 'for a limited period of time'and that there was no certainty that he would be asked to continue. "I may be asked to continue or asked to quit. I have no idea what the AICC will ask me", he added. ANd no, of course, he was not 'happy' with the poll results.

Mukherjee had taken over the reins of the pradesh congress in August last year from ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury and initiated the party's move for poll alliance with Trinamool congress a few days before the May 10 elections

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