Two tough women lead change in the East and in the South; Congress deals blow to Left in Kerala too, consolidates in Assam states
Two strong women leaders, Mamata Banerjee and J Jayalalitha, triumphed in elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu today in the face of huge odds, in a resounding election verdict against muscle and money power. In Kerala, the Congress-led United Democratic Front only just managed to edge out the Left Front in a state that has never elected a ruling party for a second consecutive term. In Assam and Puducherry, the ruling Congress made good gains to strengthen its position in the two states.
The stock markets reacted positively to the results, shooting up by over 2% in the afternoon. The Sensex was up 370 points to 18,710 and the Nifty gained 114 points to 5,600 at 1.30pm, buoyed by hopes that the election results would give some reprieve to the battered Manmohan Singh government at the Centre.
Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) alliance with the Congress party swept the communists from power in West Bengal, ending their 34-year uninterrupted rule. The CPI(M)-led Left Front was routed with most of its ministers, including chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, getting a drubbing.
The TMC-Cong was leading in 204 of the constituencies against 74 with the Left combine, just under the exit poll predictions. The CPI(M) previously had 176 members and its alliance parties a further 51 in the 294-member legislative assembly.
Ms Banerjee fought the Left on unjust policies against villagers, and for the lack of jobs in an overall poor economic environment. The battle was raised to another level over the take over of lands in Singur and Nandigram that resulted in the loss of many lives. As she talked about her plans for the state today, Didi, as she is lovingly called, made it a point to remind celebrating party workers not to forget the martyrs.
While the TMC-Cong alliance was expected to win easily, the surprise perhaps was in Tamil Nadu, where poll pundits had given the corruption-tainted DMK a chance. The principal opposition AIADMK was leading in 192 of the constituencies, while the ruling DMK-Congress alliance was ahead in only 41, which is a huge fall from the 163 seats it had in the 234-member house. Exit poll predictions had given the DMK 102-114 and the AIADMK alliance 120-132.
The wave in Tamil Nadu seemed to have also influenced the mood in the Union Territory of Puducherry, where the All India NR Congress (AINRC) in alliance with the AIADMK were leading in more than half of the total 30 constituencies. The AINRC is headed by N Rangasamy who was unceremoniously removed as chief minister of a Congress government some time back. The Congress-DMK alliance were not likely to get more than 10 seats.
In Kerala, the other CPI(M) ruled state, the Left Front was ahead in 53 of the constituencies and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) was leading in 57 of the about 120 constituencies for which counting trends were available. The LDF had won 13 of the seats for which results were declared so far and the UDF 15.
The LDF previously had 98 seats against the UDF's 42 in the 140-member Kerala state assembly, and this time round, expecting a defeat in West Bengal the Left Front made an extra effort to try and retain power in the southern state.
In Assam, the Congress was leading in counting in 74 constituencies, compared to only seven with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), and appeared set to win a good two-third majority. Other parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party were ahead in 34 constituencies The Congress previously had 53 members in the 126-member house.