Calcutta, May 19: Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress today won Bhatpara ' the 294th seat in the Assembly that went to the polls on Tuesday ' which nudged its tally to 30 and saved her the blushes.
One seat less and Trinamul would have forfeited the status of an Opposition party and lost the right to even table a no-confidence motion against the CPM-led government.
But the one seat and a whopping winning margin of 28,000 votes got Mamata firing again. 'The result proves that our party has not been washed out. People are with us. If the EVMs had not been tampered with, we could have fared better in over 100 seats. We were made to lose,' she said, dem- anding a judicial probe.
The election to Bhatpara in North 24-Parganas, originally scheduled for April 27, was countermanded following the death of Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Shefali Sarkar.
Trinamul's Arjun Singh retained the seat defeating his nearest CPM rival Harimohan Nath. Singh's 2006 margin is 12,000 more than last time.
He had also contested the Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat in 2004 and led the CPM by around 6,000 votes in Bhatpara ' the only segment out of seven where he was ahead.
The CPM's failure to get over a dozen closed jute mills reopened is believed to have contributed to the poor performance in Bhatpara.
'There is nothing free and fair in a state ruled by the communists. The CPM manipulated the polls.... The people voted for change, but that wasn't re-flected in the results as the EVMs had been tampered with,' Mamata alleged.
Observers, however, saw today's victory as a face-saver for Mamata. Trinamul had 59 seats in the last Assembly. It has 30 now. The CPM, which had 200, has 35 more.
After the completion of the five-phase polls on May 8 Mamata had thanked the Election Commission for conducting free and fair polls in the state. After the results, she alleged foul play.
'We are conducting a probe on our own to find out how the EVMs were tampered with. I am also going to write to the Centre and (the) EC seeking an inquiry,' Mamata said today.
Trinamul, she added, had complained to the commission about a possible manipulation of the voting machines last August and in the run-up to this year's elections.
'We had told commission that a state government undertaking like Webel should not be entrusted with the maintenance of voting machines. I personally told election commissioner N. Gopalaswamy that sample EVMs should be sent to all political parties for their inspection. However, the EC told me to visit their office and conduct a check. This is not acceptable,' Mamata told a news conference at her Harish Chatterjee home.
Chief electoral officer Debashis Sen said the state-owned Webel had nothing to do with the voting machines. Engineers of the Electronics Corporation of India, a Government of India enterprise headquartered in Delhi, had handled them and 'there was no scope for the tampering'.
A Trinamul MLA who won in Calcutta scoffed at Mamata's allegation. 'We shouldn't make ourselves a laughing stock,' he said.