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Gujarat has belled 2019 cat: Mamata

Mamata Banerjee

Calcutta: Mamata Banerjee congratulated Gujarat's voters on Monday for their "balanced verdict" before describing the election results as a "moral defeat for the BJP".

The Bengal chief minister had reached her 14th-floor office around 11.15am, at least 45 minutes ahead of her normal schedule. Sources in her office said she had an eye throughout on the television set, tracking the results.

She did not offer any comments while leaving Nabanna, but expressed her feelings in a tweet in the evening.

"I congratulate the Gujarat voters for their very balanced verdict at this hour. It is a temporary and face-saving win, but it shows a moral defeat for the BJP," she wrote.

"Gujarat voted against atrocities, anxiety and the injustice caused to the common people. Gujarat (has) belled the cat for 2019."

Sources close to Mamata said she had been expecting a BJP win but was confident of a reduced tally for the party.

"She was very happy because the BJP tally has dropped to 99. She had said that 100 was a psychological barrier and that many in the BJP would consider anything less than 100 as a defeat," a Mamata aide said.

A source said that Mamata had been crestfallen when some news channels claimed the BJP's final tally was 103. But she perked up after learning that the BJP had been restricted to double figures.

"The BJP tried everything. They blatantly used money power. The entire cabinet was there in Gujarat, the Election Commission was with them and the administration worked for them, but still they were stopped at 99. Don't forget that there have also been allegations of voting machine tampering," a source quoted the chief minister as saying.

According to Mamata' aides, she believes the verdict has proved that "anti-people measures" like the demonetisation and the goods and services tax have angered the common people and would cause the BJP more problems in the near future.

"She thinks that the poll results have shown that the slide of the BJP has started, which is good for Indian democracy. That's why she wrote in her tweet that Gujarat has 'belled the cat for 2019'," a source said.

Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh, however, said the Gujarat results were good news for the party. "It was an expected victory for us, but I can find no reason to celebrate now," he said.

"We should have a gala celebration when the BJP wins Bengal. This will have an impact on the Sabang (Assembly) by-election (on December 21) and the panchayat polls (scheduled next year)."

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