M A I N   N E W S

The States verdict 2011
Didi sweeps Bengal, Amma Tamil Nadu
Left out in the cold, courtesy Mamata; loses Kerala too
n Gogoi gets third term in Assam n UPA score 3-2
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 13
The results of Assembly elections declared on Friday signal a vote for change and a vote against corruption and poor governance. The spectacular rout of the Left in West Bengal and of the DMK in Tamil Nadu, however, overshadowed an equally spectacular vote for continuity in Assam.

Four of the five governments seeking renewed mandate in the states were tossed out by the electorate, with only the Congress government in Assam returning to power for the third consecutive term. And barring a photo-finish in Kerala, where the Congress-led United Democratic Front barely secured a majority, the voters dished out clear and decisive mandates in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry.

AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa greets party supporters outside her residence in Chennai.
AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa greets party supporters outside her residence in Chennai. — PTI

The lady in the cotton sari

The Mamata juggernaut steamrolled the Left Front in West Bengal, dislodging the longest communist government in a democratic country after 34 long years. With her call for ‘Poribartan’ (change), Mamata (56) swept everything before her, ensuring the victory of even political greenhorns like Anup Ghoshal (singer), Bratya Basu (playwright) , Amit Mitra (economist and FICCI secretary general), Upen Biswas (former Joint Director of the CBI), Debashree Roy and Chiranjeet (cine stars), Sultan Singh and Rachpal Singh (retired IPS officers) and even Manish Gupta, a retired IAS officer and Chief Secretary, who defeated Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. As the results poured in, the lady in her cotton sari and bathroom sandals fiddled with her Samsung tablet and made all the right moves. She appealed for peace, forbade victory processions, invited the Congress and the SUCI to join the government and attributed her victory to Jangalmahal (a Maoist stronghold), the hills (where Gorkhas are agitating for a separate state) and to the minorities.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in Guwahati ahead of the declaration of the poll results
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in Guwahati ahead of the declaration of the poll results on Friday. — PTI

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee became the first Chief Minister since 1967 to lose his seat in the Assembly. Other CPM stalwarts who lost included industry minister Nirupam Sen, who spearheaded the land acquisition for Tata Nano at Singur, Housing minister Gautam Deb, IT minister Debesh Das and urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya. The outgoing CPM minister Gautam Deb, who lost, struck a discordant note when he seemed to threaten a 'Mamata model' of agitations by the opposition. A statement issued later, however, asserted that while the Left Front was surprised at the unexpected result, it accepts it with 'humility'.

Cash and caste also took a tumble in Tamil Nadu, where Jayalalithaa and AIADMK proved poll predictions of a hung house wrong. So comprehensive has been the victory of the Puratchi Thalaivi (Revolutionary Sister) that the AIADMK ended up winning as many as 151 of the 160 seats it contested. While Chief Minister M Karunanidhi won his seat, most of his cabinet ministers including son and chosen successor Stalin lost. The call to end corruption and ‘family rule’ seem to have touched a responsive chord in voters, who were also swayed by AIADMK’s appeal to Tamil pride and promise to reach out to Tamils in Sri Lanka with a helping hand. The ghost of LTTE continues to haunt politics in Tamil Nadu and ‘Amma’ lost no time in calling for a trial of the Sri Lankan President for ‘war crimes’. The massive mandate for both Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa have ensured the country will have two more women chief ministers, besides Sheila Dikshit and Mayawati. Mamata will be the first woman chief minister of West Bengal.

N Rangaswamy
AIADMK front chief N Rangaswamy

To give or not to give freebies

While the promise of freebies (colour TVs, mixers and grinders) was neutralised in TN because they were made by both the alliances, Tarun Gogoi in Assam reaped the rewards for a slew of populist welfare measures. The Congress government in Assam had offered computer laptops to each student who passed the class X examination in the first division. It had announced cash incentives for girls born in government hospitals and offered working capital to widows to start their own small enterprises. “Good governance” and peace initiatives aimed at reconciling insurgents seem to have helped Gogoi reap the harvest.

The personal popularity of the outgoing Kerala chief minister VS Achuthanandan saved the Left Front the embarassment of a more comprehensive defeat.

Having spearheaded a relentless campaign against corruption during the last five years, the Left leader made the most of the Commonwealth Games and the 2G spectrum scams but narrowly failed to snatch what would have been an upset victory. Similarly, in Puducherry, the austere lifestyle and integrity of N. Rangasamy helped him humble his former outfit, the Congress, and enabled the AINRC-AIADMK alliance to romp home.

Mixed bag for Congress

UDF leader Oommen Chandy and his supporters celebrate the party’s victory in Kochi.
UDF leader Oommen Chandy and his supporters celebrate the party’s victory in Kochi. — TNS

The results seem to have come as a relief to the Congress and the grin on the Union Finance Minister’s face on Friday afternoon said it all.Pranab Mukherjee, whose son won a seat in the West Bengal Assembly today, took pains to point out how dismal the performance of the BJP has been in the states. But while the BJP managed to secure just five seats in Assam and one in West Bengal, it appears to have improved its vote-share everywhere and may have prevented the UDF from securing a more comfortable majority in Kerala. Mukherjee, however, refused to attach much significance to the Congress losing all the by-elections in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh, results for which were also declared on Friday. The party lost two Lok Sabha seats to the BJP and Jaganmohan Reddy and four Assembly seats, three to the BJP in Karnataka and one to Reddy’s mother in Andhra Pradesh.

The vote for ‘change’ in West Bengal and Kerala have come as a severe setback for Left parties, which till three years ago called the shots in UPA I at the Centre and held the reins in both the states till today. Now they are out of all three. And although both the CPM and the CPI, in alliance with Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, did remarkably well in Tamil Nadu ( having won 10 and 8 seats respectively out of the 12 and 10 seats contested by them), it can hardly compensate for the loss of power in West Bengal and Kerala.

Overall, the results once again underscored the maturity of the voters and the growing ability of the Election Commission to conduct free and fair polls.





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