Kolkata: The BJP made stunning inroads in Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal, with the trends of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday showing a virtual saffron sweep in the state’s northern parts as also the western tribal heartland while Chief Ninister Mamata Banerjee’s party managed to hold on to its ground in and around Kolkata and a major chunk of the south Bengal.
After close to nine hours of counting, the saffron party was leading in 18 of the 42 seats in the state, up from only two in 2014, while the Trinamool was ahead in 23 seats, 11 down from 34 which it had won in the last Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress became more marginalised leading in only one seat, while for the first time after independence, the Left failed to open its account in the state, as the Trinamool and the BJP engaged in a see-saw battle in many of the seats.
A saffron storm swept the entire northern West Bengal including the Darjeeling hills notwithstanding Trinamool’s attempt to forge alliance with a faction of the dominant hill outfit Gorkha Janamukti Morcha.
The BJP also managed to cut deep into West Bengal’s tribal belt by going ahead in Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Bishnupur and Medinipur seats with substantial margins.
The Trinamool, however, seems to be retaining its hold over its bastion in Kolkata, Howrah, East Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas districts.
In Darjeeling, that simmered with the statehood agitation of Gorkhaland in 2017, BJP candidate Raju Bista is leading over his nearest rival, former Darjeeling MLA Amar Singh Rai of Trinamool Congress by a mammoth 3.5 lakh votes.
In Alipurduar, bordering Bhutan, saffron party’s John Barla was ahead of Trinamool’s Dashrath Tirkey by over two lakh votes.
BJP candidate and Trinamool turncoat Nisith Pramanik was leading over Trinamool’s Paresh Chandra Adhikari by more than 50,000 votes.
Another north Bengal constituency Jalpaiguri was also painted in saffron as BJP’s little-known leader Jayanta Kumar Roy – a doctor – was leading over Trinamool’s Bijoy Chandra Barman by 1.37 lakh votes.
The real surprise came from Muslim-dominated Malda, a traditional Congress bastion, where BJP candidates were ahead in both Malda North and Malda South seats with slender margin.
In Raiganj, where two BJP youth activists were allegedly shot dead by police during an agitation demanding science teachers at Daribhit High School last year, BJP candidate Debasree Chaudhuri was leading. Sitting MP Mohammad Salim of the CPI-M was in the third spot.
In Asanol, Union Minister Babul Supriyo was on the verge of victory over his Trinamool rival and yesteryears actress Moon Moon Sen, while his ministerial colleague S.S. Ahluwalia was in a neck and neck contest with Mamtaz Sanghamita of the Trinamool in Bardhaman-Durgapur.
In Bengal’s tribal heartland and Junglemahal, once a hotbed of Maoist insurgency, the saffron flag fluttered high as BJP candidates led over many a stalwart of the state’s ruling party.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh has opened up a comfortable 87,000 plus lead over former state minister and Trinamool candidate Manas Bhunia in Medinipur.
BJP’s Subhas Sarkar was leading over veteran Trinamool leader and state minister Subrata Mukherjee in Bankura by over a lakh votes while the saffron party’s Kunar Hembram was ahead of Trinamool’s Birbaha Soren in Jhargram.
In south Bengal’s Hooghly constituency, West Bengal BJP’s women wing president Locket Chatterjee was leading over Trinamool’s Ratna De Nag by 72,000 votes.
Trinamool, howeverm performed handsomely in the four constituencies in Kolkata and Howrah.
Its Kolkata South candidate Mala Roy was leading over BJP candidate and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s grand nephew Chandra Kumar Bose by 1.5 lakh votes while its Kolkata North candidate Sudip Banerjee was ahead of BJP heavyweight Rahul Sinha.
The Trinamool candidates had left behind their BJP rivals in both Howrah and Uluberia constituencies in Howrah district.
Its actress-turned-candidates Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty were also leading in the Basirhat and Jadavpur constituencies, respectively.
Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee was on his way to a handsome victory as he was already ahead of his nearest rival BJP’s Nilanjan Roy by over three lakh votes in Diamond Harbour.
The state, which went to polls in seven phases, witnessed the most bitter electioneering between the TMC and the BJP and was marred by large scale violence.
In the 2014 elections, the Trinamool had increased its tally by 15 seats over the 2009 poll results by wresting seats from the Left Front.
The BJP this time went all out to make electoral gains in the state, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself holding several rallies.
Party chief Amit Shah also addressed many public meetings besides holding road shows in the state.
The Congress led in one constituency while the Left, which had ruled the state for decades, faced a washout.