The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia makes Mamata day
- Status quo is the name of the game in bypoll results

Calcutta, Sept. 19: After suffering humiliating setbacks in successive elections, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee glowed in an Assembly bypoll victory.

Trinamul had only retained the Bongaon seat — and status quo ruled in the three parliamentary seats — but that was enough to give Mamata a high. Well, Sonia Gandhi also called.

That call may rattle the Left, though the developing alliance between Trinamul and the Congress made little difference to the results in Katwa and Purulia parliamentary seats, both of which it won.

Malda, a Congress bastion for a quarter century, remained with the party, despite the fact that A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury, who had made the seat his pocketborough, is no longer around

“Soniaji phoned to congratulate (me) on Trinamul’s performance,” Mamata said before leaving for Bongaon where her nominee Saugata Roy won by a slightly higher margin, enabling Trinamul to become the recognised Opposition in the Assembly.

“I informed Soniaji that I am touched by her gesture,” Mamata said.

Until today, her party was one short of the strength of 30 MLAs required to qualify as the main Opposition.

In a quid pro quo, Mamata did not put up a candidate in Malda and Purulia and the Congress did not contest in Katwa and Bongaon, making the battle a one-to-one contest.

In spite of that, the equation did not change. The Left retained Katwa by a bigger margin and Purulia by a smaller gap. The Congress held on to Malda, by a narrower margin.

“People chose to give the verdict that way (for status quo),” said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Some had expected a break in the Congress’s record of continuous reign in Malda as the Left had won four of the seven Assembly segments there in the April-May elections.

Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi said the victory vindicated his party’s stand that the Left’s success in the 2006 Assembly polls was against the grain and part of the landslide across the state.

The Congress’s A.H. Khan Chowdhury, younger brother of Ghani Khan, in fact, received more votes.

“Our organisational weaknesses are responsible for our failure in Malda,” said Biman Bose, the state CPM secretary.

According to the CPM brass, the Left’s “success” would become visible only after some number crunching. Bose cited the 9 and 4 per cent increases in votes garnered by the CPM and its ally Forward Bloc in Katwa and Purulia in support of the claim.

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