As TMC surmounts Bengal challenge, some see Mamata pivot of politics against BJP going forward

·5-min read

New Delhi, May 2 (PTI) With Mamata Banerjee powering the Trinamool Congress to a 'landslide' victory in West Bengal overcoming 10 years of anti-incumbency, a full-throttle BJP campaign and a rebellious former lieutenant, she has become the 'natural leader' to guide the Opposition's politics against the BJP in the coming days, some leaders said Sunday.

The TMC's victory in the keenly, and at times acrimoniously, fought elections in the state comes barely a month after Banerjee wrote to Opposition leaders urging them to unite against the BJP.

The TMC's success in many ways is being seen as a victory of the non-saffron parties whose leaders were quick to congratulate her, even though she trailed her former lieutenant, but now BJP leader, Suvendu Adhikari, in Nandigram.

'Congratulations to @MamataOfficial Mamata Banerjee on her spectacular victory over the forces of communalism and intolerance. The voters of Bengal (& esp Nandigram) have demonstrated where their hearts lie. The BJP has met its match in Bengal, and lost,' Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said in a tweet.

The BJP had fielded its top leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and several Central ministers who led an aggressive campaign against the TMC.

The TMC's campaign was led mainly by Banerjee.

'Bengal has saved India today,' Banerjee announced in Kolkata after her party's victory. 'Respect the verdict of people of Nandigram, but have got landslide victory in Bengal.' She added she will move the court against the alleged 'mischief' in Nandigram, even though the results were not announced by the Election Commission yet.

Regardless, an Opposition leader detailed why he believed it is Banerjee's time now.

'With the Centre's ruling BJP grappling with the coronavirus crisis, and the Congress losing its space in virtually every state it had presence in and the Left front's grasp on Bengal slipping away, it is Banerjee's time to take on the mantle of a leader who not only has the numbers, but also the charisma and political acumen that make her a natural leader to lead the opposition against the BJP,' the leader said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whom Banerjee has often referred to as a younger brother, tweeted, 'Congratulations @MamataOfficial didi for landslide victory. What a fight! Congratulations to the people of WB.' NCP Chief Sharad Pawar too extended his best wishes to the Trinamool Congress chief.

'Congratulations @MamataOfficial on your stupendous victory! Let us continue our work towards the welfare of people and tackling the Pandemic collectively,' Pawar said in a tweet.

Another opposition leader said, 'In many ways, this (her fighting from Nandigram) showed that she is a fighter and she had the guts to compete from a seat where she knew it will be a tough battle. She could have easily chosen a safe seat. Also, one has to remember that she didn't just fight her opponent in the seat, but the entire force of the BJP.' Nandigram is the town that catapulted Banerjee to power in the state for the first time in 2011.

CPI leader, D Raja acknowledged Banerjee as a fighter and said that her victory was a 'slap' on the face of BJP.

'The BJP's campaign was aggressive and negative and they stooped to such lows without thinking of the sentiments of the people just for electoral gains,' he said.

'Mamata fought back and everybody knows that she is a fighter. One may not agree with her politics, but cannot deny that she is a fighter and that's what she showed. This victory is a huge slap on the BJP's face that despite all its might and manipulations, they couldn't make it,' said Raja.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav in a tweet congratulated the people West Bengal for being 'conscious' and hailed the efforts of workers and the 'combative' CM in defeating the BJP's 'politics of hate'. 'Hearty congratulations to the conscious public, the combative Ms. Mamta Banerjee ji and the dedicated leaders and activists of TMC, who defeated the politics of hate of BJP in Bengal! 'This is a befitting reply given to the BJP by the public for the insulting sarcasm 'Didi O Didi' to a woman,' he said.

The Shiv Sena, which shares power in Maharashtra with the NCP and the Congress and which did not contest the West Bengal polls, but extended its support to Banerjee, showered praise on the Bengal leader.

'Mamata Banerjee has sent out a clear message -- that Modi Ji and Amit Shah Ji are not invincible. They can also be defeated,' Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut told reporters.

Even her rival, the BJP's Central Observer for West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya credited Banerjee for the TMC's astounding performance in the elections, and said his party would introspect the results.

TMC national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brian called the victory a 'momentous' day.

'An emotional day after fighting the world's most destructive force, MO-SHA’s BJP. Filthy campaign aided by agencies and shameless EC. A momentous day for India and Bengal. It is understandable that we are euphoric but we also know that during #Covid we have to celebrate responsibly,' O'Brien said.

The CPI(M), which chose to fight both Banerjee and the BJP by forming a third front in the state with the Congress, said in a politburo statement, 'The BJP suffered a severe setback despite its money power and manipulations in West Bengal. The people of Bengal have very clearly rejected the ideology of communal polarization.' PTI ASG TIR TIR