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TMC fortress remains intact

There’s light at the end of the tunnel for the Trinamool Congress. The ruling party in West Bengal on Monday retained both the Bongaon Lok Sabha seat and Krishanganj assembly segment with huge margins in the by-polls. Many political commentators had seen these by-polls as a litmus test for the TMC’s popularity in the state following the arrest of key party leaders by the CBI in the Saradha scam, allied with murmurs of dissidence within its ranks.

The resounding victory in both the seats will be a shot in the arm for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who in recent months accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre of trying to politically use the investigating agency to corner her party in West Bengal. The party, according to sources, will be hoping that the result will also send out a clear message to its rank and file both in rural and urban Bengal, where several murmurs of dissidence were witnessed in the recent past. What is even more impressive for the TMC is that it went through these by-polls without the active participation of long-time Mamata aide and party general secretary Mukul Roy. 

The decades-old bond between the TMC chief and Roy came under stress after the CBI interrogated him on January 30 in connection with the Saradha scam. He was subsequently let off by the agency, in a move some believe was orchestrated by the BJP-led Centre. Their relationship soured further after Roy reiterated that he would cooperate with the CBI in the investigation. Roy’s comments were, many believe, in gross violation of the party line, which said that the BJP was using the CBI to finish off Mamata Banerjee in the political arena. 

For the BJP, however, these results came as a jolt for the party’s prospect in West Bengal. After relative success in the Lok Sabha elections and subsequent Basirhat South assembly by-poll last year, the BJP was looking to consolidate its position in the state. The BJP was humbled in both by-polls. These results came as a major disappointment for the party top brass, which had especially pinned high hopes on securing the Bongaon seat. TMC candidate Mamatabala Thakur won the Bongaon (SC) Lok Sabha seat with a margin of more than 2,11,794 votes.

The by-poll for this particular Lok Sabha seat was seen as a prestige fight for the TMC after former State cabinet minister Manjul Krishna Thakur quit the Mamata-led government for allegedly not doing enough for the Matua community, which forms a major chunk of the electorate in this constituency. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee deemed the results to be a “rejection of the conspiracy by Delhi and a slanderous campaign by the BJP and a section of the media”. Political commentators have, however, suggested that one must not jump to such definitive conclusions. These results, though, are major setbacks for the BJP top brass, who have looked to exploit the fallout from the Saradha scam.   

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