The Congress on Thursday secured a seat in the present West Bengal assembly as its candidate Bayron Biswas wrested the minority-dominated Sagardighi constituency from the ruling TMC in a bypoll.
Biswas won the by-election, defeating the nearest rival of the TMC by 22,986 votes.
After 16 rounds of counting, the Congress nominee, who enjoys the support of the Left, bagged 87,667 votes, according to the Election Commission (EC) website.
Debashish Banerjee of the TMC garnered 64,681 votes, while Dilip Saha of the BJP got 25,815 votes, the EC website revealed.
Biswas bagged 47.35 per cent of the total votes polled, while the TMC candidate secured 34.94 per cent and the vote share of the BJP was 13.94 per cent.
The bypoll saw a swing of 28 per cent votes in favour of the Congress from the saffron camp and the Trinamool Congress' kitty.
The TMC, which has been winning the seat since 2011 and had secured a margin of more than 50,000 votes in the 2021 assembly elections, witnessed a nosedive in its vote share in the bypoll from 50 per cent in the last election.
The BJP's vote share also declined from 24 per cent to below 14 per cent.
The by-election result brings down the TMC's official tally in the state assembly to 215. The Trinamool Congress, however, has the support of six BJP MLAs, who switched over to the ruling party and are yet to resign from the House.
The bypoll to the constituency, seen as a prestige fight for state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury in his home district of Murshidabad, was necessitated following the death of state minister Subrata Saha in December last year.
In the 2021 assembly elections, the Congress and the Left Front had failed to open their account in the West Bengal assembly for the first time since independence.
"This is not just my victory but thousands of Congress and Left workers across the state. It is a triumph of good over evil," Biswas, a well-known 'Beedi' baron of the area, told reporters.
Chowdhury said the party's victory is dedicated to the joint fight of the district's Congress and the Left supporters.
"This is a victory for the state's Congress and the Left alliance. People have put their faith in us and have discarded both the TMC and the BJP. The TMC should remember that the beginning of their end has begun from the Murshidabad district," he said.
Many Congress workers gathered at the Bidhan Bhavan, the party's state unit headquarters, in Kolkata and celebrated the victory.
West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Ashutosh Chatterjee thanked the people of Sagardighi for the party's win.
"This is a new innings of the Congress. Our candidate Bayron Biswas was backed by the Left. The upcoming Panchayat polls and the Lok Sabha elections will be taken up in the same format. We know that the BJP's divisive politics is not working and West Bengal's ruling party is involved in stealing jobs. We will fight together and establish democracy in the state," he said.
CPI(M) state secretary Mohd Salim said the Left Front and the Congress joined hands to ensure that anti-TMC and anti-BJP votes do not get divided.
"If this anti-BJP and anti-TMC feeling of the people has to be respected, then all the forces, which are against these two parties, should come together," he told reporters.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, described the victory of the Congress at Sagardighi by-elections as "immoral", alleging that the grand old party, besides the CPI(M), had entered into an understanding with the BJP to defeat the TMC.
"For the Sagardighi loss, I do not blame anyone. Sometimes, in a democracy, developments may usually be positive or negative. But, there is an immoral alliance, which we strongly condemn. The BJP transferred its votes to the Congress," Banerjee told reporters here.
"(In Sagardighi), everyone played the communal card. The BJP, of course, played the communal card. However, the Congress, CPI(M) however, turned out to be bigger players in this regard," she stated.
Senior TMC leader Sougata Roy termed the result as "very disappointing" and hoped the party would take corrective measures.
"The bypoll result is very disappointing. We have been winning this seat since 2011. We hope the party will take corrective measures," the TMC MP told PTI.
The BJP said the people voted against the "misrule" of the TMC.
"The people have voted against the misrule of the TMC. Is it mandatory that the TMC will win all elections even after letting loose a reign of terror and corruption? The TMC should now come out of its trance that they are invincible," BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said.
The seat was considered as a Congress bastion since the early 1950s till the then-ruling CPI (M) snatched it from the grand old party in the assembly election of 1987.
Riding on the winds of change, the Trinamool Congress wrested it from the Left in 2011.
The Congress won the seat after a gap of 41 years.
This is the second time since 2011 that the ruling TMC has lost an assembly by-poll. The BJP won a by-election to Basirhat Dakshin assembly constituency in 2014.
The election results have thrown up a few political intricacies ahead of the panchayat polls which are due in May.
According to political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty, the bypoll result has good and bad news for the TMC.
"The good news is that the opposition votes are now divided, which will likely help the TMC. But the bad news is the TMC can no longer take the minority votes for granted, " he said.
Speaking about opposition parties, Chakraborty said after the Left's "commendable performance" in the Ballygunge assembly bypoll last year, the result of Sagardighi proves that the Left and the Congress are on the path of revival.
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