Mamata Banerjee has stormed back to power in West Bengal with an overwhelming majority. The Trinamool chief, who won 184 seats in 2011, has significantly improved her tally and may end up winning over 210 seats in the 294-member assembly.
The Left front’s alliance with the Congress drove many voters to the Trinamool Congress. Some Left leaders were strongly opposed to this association. The alliance was late and was more of an electoral arrangement lacking in true spirit. The Congress retained seats in its pocket boroughs, but wasn’t able to transfer votes to the Left.
Mamata expanded her support base with several welfare schemes for the youth and the students. Kanyashree scheme, which offers monthly scholarship of Rs 750 to girl students from financially weak families and the ‘Sabuj Sathi’scheme under which cycles are distributed to students, added to her popularity. Her government dished out a monthly dole of Rs 1,500 to one lakh unemployed youth in the state under the ‘Yuvashree’ scheme, calling it an “assistance” to meet their expenses.
Mamata’s bid to provide food security to the poor was a big hit in the state. Under the Khadya Sathi scheme, her government offered rice and wheat at Rs 2 per kg to around seven crore people. These 7 crore people included those living in the Jangalmahal region, drought-affected people of Purulia district, malnourished tea garden workers and their families, cyclone-affected people, people of Singur who had lost their land due to land acquisition and other homeless in the state.
With the election commission making unprecedented arrangements for free and fair poll in the state, Mamata played the victim card to the hilt, accusing the Centre of creating “an emergency type situation” in the state. In the middle of her campaign, Mamata accused the state police of unleashing terror at EC’s behest and even warned them of consequences once she returned to power.
In the wake of corruption charges over the Saradha scam and the Narada sting, Mamata countered the opposition onslaught with her personal image and charisma. With quotes like “I am the candidate in all 294 seats, cast vote for me,” Mamata projected herself ahead of the party and in the process managed to blunt the opposition attack on corruption issue.