New Delhi, (Express News Service), Among the decisive leads so far, one was foregone — Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, with Congress piggybacking, is all set to end the 34-year-old rule of the Left Front.
More surprisingly, J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK has already ruined the hopes of the scam-hit DMK and Congress combine. The telecom graft has swept the incumbents out of Tamil Nadu.
At the threshold of much-needed change in West Bengal, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee simply said: “I will be happy if people triumph.”
In Kerala, the question remains whether the LDF will be able to buck a nearly 30-year trend in which the electorate has alternately returned to power the LDF and the UDF. Early trends don’t suggest so with the UDF slightly ahead of the Left.
In Assam, the ruling Congress appears to be emerging as the single largest party in contention for a third successive term, while in Puducherry too it looks headed for a third term.
In the 294-seat Assembly in West Bengal, the 34-year-old regime of the Left front is set to crumble with Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress ahead in 210 seats. The Left Front is leading in 66 seats.
Trinamool Congress alone is leading in 177 seats, well above the halfway mark of 147 that may enable Mamata Banerjee form a government on her own. Her ally Congress was ahead in 33 seats while CPI(M) was ahead in 48.
AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa is set to become Chief Minister for the third time in Tamil Nadu after worsting DMK in the keenly-contested elections in which the 2G scam was a major issue.
AIADMK alliance was ahead in 194 seats and DMK combine in 36. AIADMK alone is leading in 136 seats, which well above the half-way mark.
Kerala has witnessed an interesting duel between the ruling Left Democratic Front led by CPI(M) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front. The UDF is ahead in 73 seats in the 140-member assembly. The LDF was leading in 67.
In Assam, Congress was ahead in 72 seats out of a total of 126. BJP and AGP were leading in seven seats each and Bodoland Peoples Front leading in five seats.
Congress, which contested alone, gets absolute majority this time unlike last time when it had only 53 seats and had to depend on support of Bodo People’s Front.
In the 30-member assembly in Puducherry, DMK-led alliance was ahead in 10 seats while AIADMK was leading in five.
The counting in four states and one Union Territory began at 8 am sharp on Friday to read the fates of some very heavyweights in the country and of an impregnable red fort that has so far scoffed at change but is now besieged.
For the Congress and the UPA, grappling with a credibility and an image problem — clouded by corruption and battered by hostile court judgments — today’s verdict from four key states could well be their mid-term trust vote.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Tamil Nadu where, locked in an alliance with the ruling DMK for seven years, the verdict will be read in the context of the 2G scam that’s been the UPA’s weakest spot. The drama around the setting up of a JPC, the arrest of former minister A Raja and a string of corporate executives, and the bail plea of DMK leader Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi — expected to be decided on Saturday — will all be seen in the context of who is triumphant tomorrow.
In West Bengal, the end of its 34-year reign could force the CPM to reimagine itself, its ideas and agendas in national politics. It will severely erode its power to serve as the glue of a non-Congress, non-BJP formation, and trigger debate in the ranks over the leadership that plunged the party from the historic high of 2004 and 2006 to a new low.
But in Kerala, with 140 seats, it’s the prestige of the Congress that’s at stake, being locked in a direct fight with the Left Front, especially as there has been a pattern of alternating power with the Left. Any break in that pattern would impact on Congress morale.
With Bihar Assembly results recently having squeezed the Congress, the south is something it boasts about as a place where it has its bases intact. A Kerala victory for the Congress is almost vital as it is the only significant state going to the polls this time where the Congress is the driving force of the alliance.
Assam, with 126 seats, the largest of the north-eastern states, is one where the incumbent Congress faces a divided Opposition. It looks Tarun Gogoi is heading for a third time as chief minister. This signals the return of activity on the peace process, very much a work in progress.
Kadapa (MP) and Pulivendula (MLA) in Andhra Pradesh, if they reinforce the late YSR’s son and wife as popular mass leaders, would have serious repercussions not only on the ruling Congress in the state, but also, by possibly rocking its Andhra boat, on its game plan for the Centre.
Overall, if the Congress, even if riding piggyback on its allies, is able to package the results as a “mandate” in its favour, it will help it to battle the resurgent Opposition, help secure the loyalty of the DMK and the TMC as it enters the second half of its stint at the Centre.
The BJP has no visible stakes in this election, but any flags it can plant on the ground in Kerala, West Bengal and Assam at a time of such political flux can only be advantageous. It’s also hoping to see the Left out of power in both states and then package itself as the only “real” opposition in the Centre. The Left, since 1996, has often been the major roadblock to the BJP’s plans to establish a bipolarity which makes it a default option as an Opposition, a diminution in the Left’s strength will only help the BJP in the long term.
With Jayalalithaa and Mamata set for wins, with Mayawati and Naveen Patnaik already settled as Chief Ministers, and to some extent Nitish Kumar, the options that the electorate have will go well beyond the proverbial Third Front and into a Fourth Front, which doesn’t necessarily see itself as aligned to either the Congress or the BJP or even the Left.