The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Seven in a row or... there a mystery residing in seven per cent higher polling'

Calcutta, May 10: This has been a poll like no other in Bengal in recent memory because of the Election Commission’s surveillance. That is the one unknown feature that could or could not have a bearing on the results tomorrow.

The second uncertainty is the seven per cent additional polling this time over 2001 ' up to 82 per cent from 75.

Which way will this seven per cent swing' More realistically, how will this seven per cent be split'

In the absence of a groundswell of dissent against the Left Front ' bidding for the seventh innings in power ' the seven per cent should split the same way as the ruling group and the Opposition have shared the votes polled in the last two elections.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the Left’s vote share was 50.72 per cent and the Opposition’s (Trinamul, Congress and BJP combined) a little less than 44 per cent. The respective figures for the two sides are almost unchanged from the 2001 Assembly polls.

For there to be an upset, almost all seven per cent of the additional polling would have to go to the Opposition ' not a very realistic prospect. Besides, there is the fact of the Opposition having fought the election not as a combine.

Exit polls have projected figures of 200 and above and CPM state secretary Biman Bose has talked of around the same number. But the more conventional in the Left expect a figure of 190 to 200. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul simply says it hopes to do better than 2001, though exit polls don’t agree.

Unless exit and opinion polls and political observers have got the trend completely wrong, the Left should be back in power. The CPM leadership met on the eve of the results to examine the positions taken by various district units on possible ministry making.

A key element in the discussion between Jyoti Basu, Bose and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was whether or not Asim Dasgupta, the finance minister, should continue in that post.

Bhattacharjee and Bose favour a new face in finance. But Basu, who has been Dasgupta’s protector all these years, wants him to continue and it is not quite certain how this episode will unfold. Unusually, Basu, 92, visited the party office on a day other than Friday when the state leadership routinely meets.

Among others, there is pressure from the strong Burdwan unit, to which the No. 2 in the outgoing cabinet, Nirupam Sen, belongs, to move Dasgupta out from finance.

The leadership decided to convey to Dasgupta the opinions of various district units on the manner in which he has been discharging his functions. “He will be told he has made commitments regularly to ministers, party functionaries and others without bothering to honour them later.”

Basu wanted the decision on finance to await the election results, a source said. “Khardah, from where Dasgupta is contesting, is a tough seat this time,” the source added.

Realising that his traditional position in the ministry was in danger, Dasgupta stepped up his lobbying with Basu and other power centres in the party over the past few days.

Dasgupta is not the only issue before the leadership. It knows that pressures from district units for a larger representation in the ministry will escalate if the Left does not return with the same number of seats as last time or higher. If the results are not better, Bhattacharjee’s freedom to pick his cabinet will be somewhat curtailed.

• Assembly poll results in four other states will also be known on Thursday. Of these, Tamil Nadu and Assam are close battles. In Kerala, the Left is expected to snatch power. Pondicherry is the fourth state. Many eyes will also be on Sonia Gandhi’s victory margin in Rae Bareli.

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