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Exeunt Left, enter Mamata and Jayalalithaa, stay on Congress

Friday May 13, 2011 04:04:33 PM, V. IANS

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Bengal's Red Fort crumbles, Trinamool headed for big win

New Delhi: Two mighty upsets, a photo finish and a third consecutive win... As the electoral jigsaw fell into place Friday, the political picture too changed with the Left exiting from West Bengal and Kerala, the DMK from Tamil Nadu, the Congress staying on in Assam and Mamata Banerjee entering as India's newest woman chief minister.

West Bengal and Tamil Nadu threw up the most decisive mandates, the most important since the 2009 general election. While Banerjee sailed to a historic win, ending the Left Front's 34-year uninterrupted rule with an estimated 214 seats in the 294-member assembly, J. Jayalalithaa's AIADMK won an equally emphatic victory over the DMK in Tamil Nadu with leads in 199 seats in the 234-member house.

In Assam, the Congress government was headed for its third consecutive term with 79 seats in the 126-member house. Kerala was a close call, with the Congress-led United Democratic Front scraping through with 72 seats, just four above ruling Left Democratic Front's (LDF) 68.

Two chief ministers, both stalwarts and both 87, bowed out - CPI-M's V.S. Achuthanandan in Kerala and DMK's M. Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu.

In the tiny union territory of Puducherry, it was a neck and neck race between the ruling Congress-led alliance and the opposition front led by the breakaway Congress AINRC.

In Kolkata, all roads led to Banerjee's residence in Kalighat.

"This is a complete victory of democracy... This is a historic verdict. After 34 years, Bengal has got new freedom," the woman, who brought the Left to its knees in its bastion, told a crowd of thousands that kept cheering her.

"The one traffic light in the world that was red for 34 years just turned green in Bengal," Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted.

Admitting defeat, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said: "The people have opted for a change and the main beneficiary of the change has been the Trinamool Congress."

The Left lost out in Kerala too, though narrowly. The Congress-led UDF won 72 seats - just one more than the 71 required to form a government.

This is the first time that a government has gone down fighting, with the smallest ever margin of defeat.

Congress' Oommen Chandy, widely tipped to be the next chief minister, said: "This was not what we expected."

This election also wrote the epitaph of DMK founder leader M. Karunanidhi, who at 87 is unlikely to take the mantle of chief minister again.

Defying poll prediction, the AIADMK made a clean sweep of Tamil Nadu, leaving the DMK and its allies gasping with only 37 seats. As a triumphant Jayalalithaa prepared to become chief minister for a third time, pundits said the DMK's taint might have been too deep to have been overlooked.

Earlier in the day, Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi said that of the Rs.70 crore of black money seized during this election, Rs.60 crore was from Tamil Nadu.

Clearly, the alleged lavish distribution of money by the DMK had not done the trick for the party, whose leader A. Raja is behind bars in the 2G spectrum scam. Its MP and Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi has been named co-conspirator in the multimillion rupee scandal and could go to jail.

Although Jayalalithaa made no statement immediately, she appeared before cheering crowds to acknowledge their greetings.

In Assam, the Congress was set for an enviable hat-trick with the main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) crushed. Even their respective party presidents lost the polls.

"People of Assam voted us based on our performance in the past 10 years," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS.

Assam was the biggest positive of the day for India's ruling Congress, which found itself wiped out in Tamil Nadu and just scraping through in Kerala. It did take refuge in the victory of its ally Trinamool in West Bengal, where it was the second-rung partner.

There was more bad news for the party. In Andhra Pradesh's Kadapa Lok Sabha constituency, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy of the newly floated YSR Congress Party was poised for a huge win, leading by over 200,000 votes over his Congress rival.

In Chhattisgarh's Bastar Lok Sabha seat, Dinesh Kashyap of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was leading over Kawasi Lakhman of the Congress.



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Picture of the Day

Vice President Mohd. Hamid Ansari addresses after releasing the special issue of “Think India” quarterly on Faiz Ahmad Faiz, in New Delhi on May 10, 2011. Also seen in the picture is Member Planning Commission Dr Syeda Hameed among others.

(Photo: Hansraj)



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