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Stunning success, some setbacks

Siliguri, May 11: The beaming smile on this candidate was different ' different from all the other 292 contenders who got an Assembly seat today.

For it belonged to Asok Bhattacharya who, with a difference of 74,971 votes, won the Siliguri seat with the largest margin in Bengal. He had garnered 55.4 per cent of the total votes cast, just beyond what he had achieved (55.32 per cent) in 1996. He himself did not expect this. Coming out of the counting hall at noon, at which stage he had won 96,915 votes, he said he would end up with 1,15,000. An hour later he had bagged 1,17,943 votes, while his nearest rival Nantu Paul (Congress) had 42,972.

'I said I would win by over 50,000 votes, but I had a gut feeling that the margin would exceed 70,000,' he said. Even wife Ratna had not expected a margin of more than 45,000. 'I knew he would be ahead compared to last time (in 2001, the margin was 22,881), but this was beyond my expectations,' she said, her face covered with aabir.

Such was the clean sweep that the total (42,972+28,604= 71,576) of the two runners-up, second being Pratul Chakraborty of the Trinamul, did not add up to the difference between the winner and his nearest rival.

The first few rounds of counting ' the first 43 polling stations in Mirik ' revealed that the GNLF was ahead. But by 10 am, the urban development minister was surging ahead. Matigara I, Matigara II and Siliguri town, the three other broad segments in the constituency, gave him a landslide victory. Several pockets where the Congress and Trinamul were expected to score, voted for him.

Thanking the electorate, Bhattacharya dedicated his victory to the memory of Anil Biswas. 'He had told me soon after the election was announced to look after Siliguri,' he said.

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