Mamata Banerjee at Writers’ on Wednesday. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Calcutta, Sept. 28: Mamata Banerjee today started her festive season with a triple triumph — one in a court of law and two others in the court of the people.
Within hours of Calcutta High Court upholding the validity of the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, which her government had passed to take back land allotted for the Tata Nano factory, the chief minister won the Bhowanipore Assembly byelection with a margin bigger than the one Trinamul had got in the April Assembly polls. Her party also snatched the Basirhat North seat from the CPM.
Although less than 45 per cent of the electorate voted in the Sunday bypoll at Bhowanipore, Mamata bagged 77.46 per cent of the total votes cast. She defeated the CPM’s Nandini Mukherjee by a margin of 54,213 votes. In the Assembly elections, the turnout was 64 per cent and Trinamul’s Subrata Bakshi had won the seat by 49,936 votes.
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called her up to congratulate her on her poll victory and farmers in Singur celebrated the court verdict, Mamata gave credit to “Maa, Mati, Manush” for the triumphs. “This is a victory for three Ms, Maa, Mati, Manush. To those making snide remarks at Maa, Mati, Manush, I will say: ‘Stop this.’”
Mamata, who contested an Assembly election for the first time, has to resign as MP within 14 days. “She doesn’t need to be present in the Lok Sabha to submit her resignation provided the Speaker does not object to such a move,” said Subhash Kashyap, a Delhi-based constitution expert.
The chief minister said the poll victory had strengthened her resolve to work for the people. “The people are the top-most judges. They take decisions on their own. As good political workers, it is our duty to stand by the people,” Mamata said.
According to Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy, the high court’s decision to uphold the Singur act has proved that Mamata had taken “the right administrative decision” to take back the land from the Tatas for return to the “unwilling” farmers. “Her political victory had been established in May, when she decimated the Left Front in the Assembly polls. The bypoll victories today have put the seal of public approval on her politics and style of governance,” Roy said.
Mamata had kept her Bhowanipore campaign low key as she was “busy” with her administrative responsibilities. She led only two padayatras in the constituency and could not visit Basirhat even once.
On the other hand, the CPM had slogged in Bhowanipore, with senior leaders like Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose leading rallies. Although the events drew large crowds, the turnouts did not reflect at the hustings.
Bose said the results in Bhowanipore and Basirhat North had “not come as a surprise” for the CPM. “How can we expect a change of mind of the voters so early? Only four months have passed since the people ushered in a change by electing a new government. Trinamul had won a landslide in the Assembly polls,” the CPM state secretary said.
The leader of the Opposition, Surjya Kant Mishra, said the Left Front would discuss the factors responsible for the bypoll defeats.
In her characteristic style, Mamata offered a suggestion to the Left. “They should stop talking about our government for at least 10 years and allow us to work,” she told STAR Ananda.
Although Mamata’s victory from Bhowanipore was a foregone conclusion, the Trinamul camp was worried about the margin as inclement weather and lack of interest in the bypoll had resulted in a low turnout.
The chief minister, however, maintained her lead over the CPM’s Mukherjee from the first round of counting. Union minister Roy and state ministers Subrata Bakshi, Madan Mitra and Firhad Hakim were at Mamata’s 30B Harish Chatterjee Street home since morning and kept her posted about the results after each round of counting.
The chief minister also kept an eye on the developments at Calcutta High Court.
Around 1pm, after the Bhowanipore results were declared, Mamata stepped out of her home and went to the adjoining party office. “Thank you so much. Shokole bhalo thakun (I wish everybody well),” she said before entering the office. Half an hour later, Bakshi, Hakim and Sachhidananda Banerjee, Mamata’s polling agent, went to Hastings House to collect Mamata’s election certificate.
Sachhidananda handed the certificate to Mamata at her home around 2pm. After that, she left for Writers’ Buildings.