Sunday brought mixed news for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. While she led her party Trinamool Congress to an impressive win in the state, with leads/wins in 214 seats, Banerjee herself lost in battleground Nandigram to former aide Suvendu Adhikari.
Initial counting trends showed a neck-and-neck race between Trinamool and the BJP, with both parties evenly poised, but soon the Trinamool surged ahead, improving its 2016 tally by two seats. At the end of the day, the BJP was leading in 76 seats. The halfway mark in the state is 147. Elections were countermanded in 292 of the 294 seats following the deaths of two candidates.
While the Trinamool Congress looked set to register its best-ever performance, suspense grew over Nandigram. Adhikari maintained a decent lead from the word go. At one point, he was leading by more than 10,000 votes. Then came a total blackout as EC servers crashed around 1 pm. Hours later, Banerjee emerged at 6 pm to thank people for the landslide victory for her party and to accept the 'Nandigram verdict'. She also threatened to move court to expose 'manipulation' in Nandigram.
It was a no-holds-barred campaign by the saffron party, boosted locally by a number of key defections from Mamata’s party. The Trinamool was no less strident as it sought a third straight term for its leader Mamata Banerjee.
Mamata Banerjee, injured leg in a cast, did not leave any opportunity to viciously attack the BJP, which repaid in kind. From Prime Minister Modi's 'Didi o didi' to Mamata Banerjee's 'dada with chubby cheeks', the campaign had its many highs and lows.
Despite the gruelling, long-drawn campaign the voter turnout was a robust 80% with more than 84.77 lakh voters exercising their franchise.
Mamata Banerjee, fighting the toughest poll of her political life, countered BJP's Hindutva nationalism with her 'sub-nationalism' theme. Calling BJP the outsiders, out to 'fool' Bengal, Banerjee even brought up her Brahmin background and recited 'Chandi Path' to prove her 'Hindu credentials'.
For PM Modi "Bhaipo" (nephew) and "tolabaji" (extortion) became buzzwords for the campaign while taking a dig at Mamata Banerjee's nephew and Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek.