West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has scripted a third straight win for her Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the assembly elections, but she has lost Nandigram, the only seat she contested, by around 1,956 votes. Suvendu Adhikari, once a protege of Banerjee and now her opponent, has won the constituency considered his family bastion.
Now that Mamata Banerjee has lost Nandigram - Category A political territory and her ‘karmbhoomi’ from where she rose to prominence by leading the protest against what she called a compromise of farmers' rights - her party has asked for "recounting", alleging irregularities in the counting of votes.
Mamata Banerjee, however, can still be the chief minister but her detractors will demand that she honour the people's mandate by stepping away from the top post.
Banerjee emerged at 6 pm on Sunday to thank people for the landslide victory for her party and to accept the "Nandigram verdict".
"Don't worry about Nandigram, I struggled for Nandigram because I fought a movement. It's ok. Let the Nandigram people give whatever verdict they want, I accept that. I don't mind. We won more than 221 seats and the BJP has lost the election," Mamata Banerjee said soon after her party raced ahead with leads/wins in 214 seats.
Pitching Suvendu Adhikari against Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram was a clever move by the BJP, which acquired the former TMC leader in December last year after months of speculation that he was, like many others in the party, upset over disproportionate powers assigned to Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
It was Mamata who had launched Suvendu Adhikari as the face of her Nandigram movement, which powered her first Bengal win in 2011, uprooting the Left after 34 years of rule. Taunted by the BJP, the chief minister insisted on contesting from just one seat despite her party leaders asking her to take the two-seat route.
Mamata Banerjee lashed out at Suvendu Adhikari for his "betrayal", calling him a “cheater” and “traitor”. Adhikari turned into a key campaigner for the BJP across the state, matching Mamata blow for blow.
What are Mamata's options now that she has lost Nandigram?
Mamata Banerjee can still be the chief minister and she would be required to contest election and become a member of the assembly within the period of six months as per Article 163-164 of the constitution.
The chief minister is elected through a majority in the state legislative assembly. This is procedurally established by the vote of confidence in the legislative assembly, as suggested by the governor of the state who is the appointing authority. In case of Trinamool Congress, Mamata Banerjee is the de facto head. However, what Mamata Banerjee chooses to do after losing Nandigram would be a thing to watch out for.