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West Bengal's red fort falls

National,Politics, Sat, 16 May 2009 IANS

Kolkata, May 16 (IANS) After 32 years, West Bengal's seemingly impregnable red fort collapsed Saturday with the opposition Trinamool Congress tasting victory in two thirds of the seats alongside its allies including the Congress. The communist-led ruling Left Front has come up with its worst performance since coming to power in 1977.


The Trinamool-Congress-Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) combine bagged 26 seats, reducing the Left Front to 15, of the 42 seats in the state. Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) heavyweight Jaswant Singh won the Darjeeling seat.



In the 2004 elections, the Left Front had finished with a whopping 35 seats, while the Congress and the Trinamool had to be satisfied with six and one, respectively.



But this time, the LF lost 20 of the seats it won five years back.



While the Trinamool won 19, the Congress got half a dozen, and the SUCI candidate emerged victorious from Jaynagar in South 24 Parganas.



Soon after the results, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee described the poor showing of the Left Front as a 'no confidence' vote by the people and, eager to capitalise on the party's spectacular win, demanded that the state assembly polls slated for 2011 be advanced.



'We will try to pre-pone the assembly elections. After all, this vote is an expression of no-confidence in the state government,' Banerjee told newspersons at her residence here.



Tracing its defeat to a pro-Congress wave, the Left Front accepted the verdict, saying 'people have taught us a lesson' and promised correctional steps.



'We have accepted the results of this poll. People have taught us a lesson. We will try to analyse why we lost by such a margin. We will take up correctional steps as soon as possible. It's an unprecedented defeat,' LF chairman Biman Bose told reporters.



Among LF partners, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) secured nine - the first time its haul came to single digit in 32 years. The BJP also made a breakthrough, despite its erstwhile alliance partner Trinamool shifting allegiance to the Congress, by wresting Darjeeling, from where Jaswant Singh won by a big margin of 253,291 votes. Singh defeated CPI-M nominee Jibesh Sarkar. The BJP had won two seats in 1999, but then it was in alliance with the Trinamool.



The Left Front's seat count eclipsed its previous lowest tally of 26 in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections.



The LF has been decimated in five districts in and around Kolkata, besides facing the wrath of Muslims, angry over the violent incidents in Nandigram and the Sachar Committee report that pulled up the LF government for the backwardness of the minority committee. The defeat of the CPI-M in its stronghold of Uluberia - from where its candidate Hannan Mollah won eight times consecutively - is a pointer to this.



Out of the 19 districts, the LF has been wiped out in 10.



The LF, however, succeeded in retaining its base in the Maoist-dominated western belt of Bankura, Purulia and Mindapore West, besides doing well in Burdwan district.



Two senior state ministers lost - Sailen Sarkar (Malda North) and Anisur Rahman Sarkar (Murshidabad).



Among the prominent candidates who have won are External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee from Jangipur, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee from her pocket borough of Kolkata South and CPI-M leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha Basudeb Acharya from Bankura.



The heavyweights who have lost are deputy leader of the CPI-M Mohammed Salim from Kolkata North, CPI-M nominee and former Asian Games double gold medal winning athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, former union minister and BJP candidate Satya Brata Mukherjee (both from Krishnanagar) and state Congress working president Subrata Mukherjee.



The Trinamool candidate won Tamluk - which includes the troubled zone of Nandigram - as well as Hooghly - which includes Singur. Both areas had seen violent protests over the LF government's bid to set up industrial units by acquiring farmland, and are said to be the prime reason for the LF's defeat.



All the three glamorous candidates of the Trinamool - singer Kabir Suman (Jadavpur), and film actors Tapas Pal (Krishnanagar) and Shatabdi Roy (Birbhum) - won from seats held by the LF earlier.


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