The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Code red for Calcutta
Fantasy figures script lurch to left

Give me red, was the cry from Calcutta, as the CPM, riding an anti-NDA wave, invaded the city and sent the Trinamul Congress-BJP partnership packing.

Poker-faced Alimuddin Street made no attempt to hide its grin on Thursday evening. And why not' After all, it was for the first time in their 27 years in power in Bengal that, led by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Left has finally got it right in the city.

“Calcuttans have overwhelmingly voted for us because they were aghast at the cut-out culture they (the Trinamul-BJP combine) imported from nobody knows where. You cannot win votes with the help of cut-outs. You have got to work for the people,” said Biman Bose, CPM politburo member and Left Front chairman.

The counting centres dotting the city threw up amazing figures and scripted an extraordinary election story on the day the mercury touched its highest this season.

The result: the only seat to survive the ‘red wash’ was Mamata Banerjee’s Calcutta South, where the Trinamul Congress leader found her margin of victory slashed to half.

For the crowds gathered since morning outside the Netaji Indoor Stadium, the first hint of a Calcutta coup came around 10 am. Word was out that the CPM’s Sudhangshu Seal had opened up a comfortable lead in Calcutta Northwest, a traditionally anti-Left seat.

Calcutta Northwest had a tryst with history to keep on Thursday. When Seal won it, he broke a four-decade-long jinx for the CPM.

A few hours later, a 20-year blank was ready to be filled up. Calcutta Northeast, the pocket borough of veteran Ajit Panja, was being wrested by the CPM’s Md Salim.

If the Alimuddin Street headquarters of the CPM was uncharacteristically gung-ho, the Trinamul party office on the EM Bypass was slipping from despair to desperation.

Aami aar phone dhorte parchhi na. How long can I keep telling people that we have either lost or are trailing'” was the plaint of a party worker fed up with his afternoon duty of answering poll calls.

And one couldn’t really blame him, as nothing went right for Mamata and her men, with even the Calcutta South seat giving the BJP ally some anxious moments.

From three designated counting centres, she was trailing CPM’s Rabin Deb by about 13,000 votes in the early rounds. Mamata would finally manage to retain the seat, but only after having her margin of victory pruned to 98,197 from 214,008 in 1999.

With her entire parliamentary team annihilated by the CPM, Mamata was left standing in the dark courtyard of her Harish Chatterjee house with one cry on her lips: “Rigging.”

Red was also the preferred colour in Dum Dum, where the CPM produced another “mini miracle” by wiping out a deficit of 134,000 and ensuring the victory of its candidate Amitava Nandy over BJP’s Tapan Sikdar by a margin of 105,000 votes.

And in Jadavpur, Trinamul’s sitting MP Krishna Bose lost to CPM’s Sujan Chakraborty.

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