Trinamool Congress Leader says "This is a Second freedom for Bengal"
A tsunami called Mamata has swept the longest-serving communist government in the country and smashed it to bits. The journey that started with a frail, young woman demolishing the giant Somnath in 1984 has reached its destination. Firing on all cylinders. In a time when no one even dared think of the possibility, Mamata Banerjee had shown that the CPM could be defeated in Bengal. This time, she has proven it can be vanquished.
Mamata dedicated the Trinamool victory to the people. "We will establish democracy, not patry-cracy. We will bring back the lost glory of Bengal. It is the victory of Ma, Mati, Manush. This is like the second freedom of Bengal," she said as hundreds cheered in front of her humble house in Kalighat.
Election 2011 turned out to be a one-sided match, and the winning captain wasn't even playing. The scoreline looked ridiculous. Like the sight of a bunch of gangly teen bikers, in expensive shades, thundering through narrow Alimuddin Street, shouting "Aye Buddha, dekhe ja, Mamatar khamata!"
The roar ripped into the CPM party office, which had fallen into a funereal silence. The Alimuddin Street apparatchik, far removed from reality, sat in isolated ones and twos, unable to comprehend Force Mamata. All their giants had toppled - Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Nirupam Sen, Asim Dasgupta, Gautam Deb... Buddha lost by 16,000 votes, Nirupam by 22,000.
Even Congress won more seats (42) than CPM (40).
Left Front chairman Biman Bose's first remark after the debacle showed just why the CPM deserved to lose. His manner was arrogant, his replies curt, even dismissive, and his entire take on the historic defeat was that the Left Front's "assessment had been wrong". It was way off the mark, in fact. Trinamool won single-party majority just five years after the Left had reduced it to 30 seats.
It nailed the end of 34 years of communist rule, and heralded a change from the stifling status quo.
The Trinamool landslide was indicative of public sentiment against the regimented party hegemony. CPM was utterly vanquished in most of its strongholds - West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and North Bengal - areas that shut their windows to the winds of change in 2009. It was clear that young and old had pressed the EVM buttons with an exasperated vengeance, consigning Buddhadeb's 'turnaround script' to the trash bin.
The Left Front scored zero in as many as four districts - Kolkata, Howrah, East Midnapore and Darjeeling - and did miserably in Hooghly, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas.
Sensing the mood, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee put in his papers at Raj Bhavan hours before his defeat from Jadavpur was formally declared. Surjyakanta Mishra, Abdur Rezzak Mollah and Susanta Ghosh are among the handful of CPM leaders to have made it to the assembly. In the evening, Mamata drove into Raj Bhavan - in the white SUV in which she had travelled thousands of miles, criss-crossing Bengal's remotest corners - to stake her claim to form the government.
It was another sight thought impossible even two years ago.
Only Buddhadeb had sensed the undercurrent. He made a desperate attempt to minimise the public disgust. He apologised frequently, promised amends. But he was overshadowed by his comrade Gautam Deb who went on the aggressive. It had little effect beyond the Left periphery and in fact backfired as Deb's theatrics helped consolidate the anti-Left votebank.
The Mamata tsunami swept everything in its way - the CPM poll machinery. Congress dissidents, the unpredictability of ethnic politics. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh president Sheikh Hasina rang up Mamata to congratulate her.
The 15-year-old journey - from Mamata's expulsion from the Congress to the Congress riding piggyback on her success to return to power - has not been a smooth one. There were occasions when this pathologically anti-CPM woman was thrown into splendid isolation, especially after the 2004 Lok Sabha polls and 2006 assembly election. Her detractors started calling her names. But Mamata didn't lose hope. She kept up with her defiance and reached out to the far-flung hamlets in Bengal, nursing the wounds of the victims of the CPM's terror, hugging those who had been cast out by the CPM hegemony, fighting a lonely battle for those who had no strength left.
So, when matters began getting dangerously out of hand during the land acquisition in Singur in 2006, even pro-Left farmers didn't have any inhibition in embracing Mamata Banerjee as the only credible ally against the mighty CPM. The gritty Mamata took up the challenge and started making the CPM bleed in its strongholds.
However, the challenges she faces now as head of a government are as daunting as the rough road to victory. First among them is to put an end to the bloodshed in the districts. Second, tackling the near-empty coffers she has inherited. Third, the Maoist threat in Jangalmahal and the Adivasis and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Hills. It will help that all the members of Didi's 'dream Cabinet' - such as Amit Mitra, Manish Gupta, Bratya Basu and Partha Chatterjee - have been elected.