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BJP back in Bengal assembly after 15 years, Trinamool retains Chowringhee

Kolkata, Sep 16 (IANS) After 15 long years, the BJP now has a representative in the West Bengal assembly. Party candidate Shamik Bhattacharya Tuesday won from Basirhat (South) in the bypolls, while the state’s ruling party Trinamool retained the Chowringhee seat.

Bhattacharya defeated Trinamool candidate and former Indian soccer captain Dipendu Biswas in a hard-fought battle by a slender margin of 1,586 votes. The contest turned out a cliff-hanger as Bhattacharya trailed till the penultimate 10th round, but more than made up for the deficit in the final one.

The constituency in North 24-Parganas district had elected Left Front major CPI-M candidate Narayan Mukherjee, despite the coalition’s rout in the 2011 assembly polls. Mukherjee’s death necessitated the bypoll.

Continuing its poor show in the state, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate Mrinal Chakrabarty finished third. Congress candidate Asit Majumdar was the fourth.

In 1999, Badal Bhattacharya had won the Ashoknagar assembly seat – that too in a by-election. It was the only time in the past that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had an MLA in the state. However, the BJP was in alliance with the Trinamool at that time.

Some uncertainty cropped up about the result after the Trinamool demanded a recount, but the Election Commission turned down the demand as it found no evidence of any irregularity.

Chowringhee, in the heart of Kolkata, saw Nayna Bandopadhyay defeat the BJP’s Ritesh Tiwari by 14,344 votes. Bandopadhyay, actress wife of Trinamool parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, secured 38,328 votes, while Tiwari got 23,984 votes.

Congress candidate Santosh Pathak was a close third with 23,317 votes.

The CPI-M’s Faiaz Ahmed Khan lost his deposit managing only 8,890 votes.

The Congress candidate for Kolkata North Lok Sabha seat Somen Mitra had led in the segment during the May general elections, with the Trinamool coming second. The BJP had taken the third slot then.

Chowringhee went to the hustings prematurely after the resignation of Trinamool legislator and Somen Mitra’s wife Sikha Mitra, who won the 2011 election but quit the party.

Polling for both the seats was held Sep 13.

Reacting to the results, Trinamool all India general secretary Mukul Roy said the outcome has to be viewed in the context of the Lok Sabha polls when his party trailed in both the seats.

“We have increased our vote share in Chowringhee. We were trailing by 1500. Now we won by almost 15000 votes. In May, 2014 BJP led in Basirhat South by 32000 votes. Now we have narrowed the margin. We have recovered 28000 votes”.

Iterating that the people have reposed their faith in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Roy said without mentioning the Saradha scam: “The canard and smear campaign launched by a section of the media and all political rivals have not cut any ice with the people.”

“We will win over two-thirds majority in the the 2016 assembly polls,” he said.

State BJP president Rahul Sinha said his party has now emerged as the real alternative to the Trinamool.

“The Basirhat South victory has come on our own strength. It is an indication of the future course of politics in the state. We would have won in Chowringhee. But Trinamool managed to consolidate the votes of the non-Bengali muslims in their favour”.

Left Front partner Forward Bloc leader Udayan Guha advocated a change in the combine’s leadership.

“Nothing can be more alarming than the BJP winning the Basirhat South which has long been a CPI-M stronghold. The CPI-M candidate also suffered the humiliation of losing his deposit at Chowringhee,” Guha, a MLA from Dinhata, told IANS.

“It is now apparent that people are not liking a few of the leaders and it’s high time new faces and young legs take up the mantle,” he added.

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