Fri, 01 Mar 2013 04:34:04 GMT

Congress loses a seat each to Trinamool, Left Front

Kolkata, Feb 28 (IANS) Ruling Trinamool Congress and opposition Left Front snatched a seat each from the Congress, which managed to retain only one seat in the West Bengal assembly by-polls.

Minister for Animal Husbandry Humayun Kabir bit the dust in Rejinagar in Murshidabad district, but the mixed verdict provided reasons for all parties to ponder over the outcome.

The by-polls in the three constituencies were held Feb 23, and results were announced Thursday.

Of the three seats -- all won by the Congress in alliance with the Trinamool in the May 2011 assembly elections -- where the by-elections were held, the Congress retained power in only its stronghold Rejinagar.

Kabir had defected to the Trinamool from the Congress November last year, but finished third in the by-poll.

The Trinamool, however, won from English Bazar in Malda district, while Left Front partner Forward Bloc wrested Nalhati in Birbhum district from the Congress.

The by-polls were necessitated after sitting Congress legislators from Rejinagar and English Bazar joined the Trinamool Congress and were made ministers.

The Nalhati seat fell vacant after Congress legislator Abhijit Mukherjee won the election from Jangirpur parliamentary seat, vacated by his father Pranab Mukherjee after being elected the president of India.

In Rejinagar, Congress nominee Rabiul Alam Chowdhury triumphed by 11,722 votes over his nearest Left Front-backed Revolutionary Socialist Party rival Sirajul Islam Mondal.

The Trinamool, however, won in English Bazar where Tourism Minister Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury romped home with an emphatic 20,452-vote margin.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate Kaushik Mishra was second, while the Congress' Narendranath Tiwari finished a distant third.

Chowdhury had switched to the Trinamool in November.

The Left Front tasted its sole success in Nalhati, where Forward Bloc nominee Dipak Chatterjee won by 7,742 votes against his closest rival Abdur Rehman of the Congress. Biplab Ojha of the Trinamool ended third.

This was the first election in West Bengal after the alliance between the Congress and the Trinamool snapped, both at the centre and in the states, in September last year.

The Trinamool now has 186 seats, the Congress 40 and the Left Front 62 in the 294-strong state assembly. But each of the three parties need to put their thinking cap on.

While Trinamool's tactics of poaching on Congress legislators with lure of ministerial berths met with only partial success, the party would be more concerned with having finished third in two of the three constituencies.

The Left Front also may have wrested a seat, but its leaders would be hard put to devise a strategy to stem its declining support.

The Left Front's vote share slid around 11 percent in English Bazar and Rejinagar, and over six percent in Nalhati compared to the 2011 figures.

For the Congress, despite having won the prestige fight in Murshidabad, the hard fact is the party lost two of the three seats it won partnering the Trinamool in 2011.

Reacting to the results, Left Front chairman Biman Bose blamed organisational weakness.

"We tried hard to plug the loopholes, but the results show we have not been fully successful," he said.

Trinamool general secretary Mukul Roy congratulated the people of English Bazar, and claimed that his party made good inroads into Rejinagar -- "a constituency where we did not have any base earlier".

Congress leader and union minister Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: "The results have proved that Mamata Banerjee is not invincible. We have defeated her strategy of trying to finish off the Congress by buying our MLAs."

©Indo-Asian News Service

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