New Delhi: Mamata Banerjee scored a huge victory in Bengal today over the BJP in state elections that were held over the past two months as Covid cases surged in India. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is leading in 213 of Bengal’s 294 seats and the BJP appears set to finish below the 100-mark.
“Bengal has saved India. This is a victory of democracy. They said they would win 200-plus seats but they have been decimated. Bengal has decimated BJP’s ego,” Mamata Banerjee, 63, said, emerging for the first time in weeks without her wheelchair – which became a constant in her campaign after she suffered a leg injury in Nandigram on March 10.
Mamata Banerjee’s celebrations were dimmed somewhat by her defeat in Nandigram to her former lieutenant-turned-BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.
The Chief Minister lost by a slim margin in Nandigram, which, ironically, catapulted her to victory the first time round in 2011, when she ended the Left’s three-decade rule in Bengal.
The Bengal result has stunned the BJP, which invested its top leaders, resources and formidable election machinery to try and snatch the key state from the two-time Chief Minister. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah addressed 51 rallies in 50 days.
“Khela Hobe (game on),” became the Trinamool’s catch-phrase as it took on the BJP’s near-invincible election machinery supported by Trinamool defectors. The BJP countered by saying “Khela shesh (game over)” – but that seems to have ricocheted on the party. However, the BJP has made substantial gains from just three seats in 2016 to nearly 80.
PM Modi, top BJP leaders and Mamata Banerjee held crowded rallies where safety rules like masks and distancing were discarded.
In a campaign that often pushed the limits of decorum, both the Trinamool and the BJP exchanged bitter allegations and personal attacks.
The Trinamool took strong exception to PM Modi’s repeated taunts at Mamata Banerjee, embellished with the phrase “Didi o Didi”.
PM Modi, in his congratulatory message, tweeted: “Congratulations to Mamata Didi for Trinamool Congress’ win in West Bengal. The Centre will continue to extend all possible support to the West Bengal Government to fulfil people’s aspirations and also to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As Bengal voted in a record eight rounds that ended on Thursday, India saw a steep rise in daily Covid cases and deaths. Ms Banerjee and her party accused the Election Commission of blatantly helping the BJP by dragging out the voting and by not stopping mega rallies despite the Covid surge.
The crowded campaigns presented frightening visuals when India was clocking more than three lakh cases a day in April.
On Saturday, Bengal reported the highest one-day COVID-19 deaths – 103 – and over 17,500 cases.
Since April 30, Bengal has been placed under a partial lockdown.