It was woman power unsheathed as the Assembly election results poured in on Friday: Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu swept into office on the back of humongous victories that surpassed the wildest pre-election calculations.
If the Mamata tidal wave fetched the All-India Trinamool Congress (AITC)-Congress Alliance three-fourths of the seats in the West Bengal Assembly, the story was repeated in Tamil Nadu, where the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) alliance mopped up all but a few seats.
The defeat of the Left Front (LF) in West Bengal brought the curtain down on the longest running government in India and the longest running elected Communist government anywhere in the world. However, by way of compensation, the Left put up a spirited fight in Kerala, coming close to a victory and then losing by just four seats to the United Democratic Front.
The LF in West Bengal not only suffered staggering losses cutting across regional divides, many prominent names in the outgoing Cabinet also crashed out of the race. In Jadavpur, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was trounced by Manish Gupta, who had served as his Chief Secretary before joining the AITC. In Khardaha, Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta was defeated by industry lobbyist and AITC candidate Amit Mitra.
In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK sweep reduced the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Congress Alliance to just a handful of seats. In Kolathur in Chennai, Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin scraped through with a margin of 2,819 votes.
In Kerala, the Left Democratic Front nearly upset the trend of alliances alternatively taking power established since the early 1980s. Finally, in a nail-biting finish, the LDF lost to the United Democratic Front, but by a whisker. In a House of 140, the LDF won 68 seats to the UDF's 72.
And yet, these were not the only surprises in the election. In Assam, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi pulled off a spectacular third straight win, defying predictions of a hung House.
In Puducherry, the breakaway N.R. Congress led by N. Rangasamy thumbed its nose at the parent Congress party. In a 30-member House, the N.R. Congress-AlADMK alliance bagged 21seats to the DMK-Congress' tally of nine. Remarkably, the N.R. Congress is still to be formally recognised by the Election Commission. With the trends firming up by 11 in the morning, stampeding crowds lined up outside the Kolkata and Chennai homes of Ms. Banerjee and Ms. Jayalalithaa. Both women were the picture of humility, speaking the same language and attributing their triumphs to the will of the common people.
Ms. Banerjee, who was the first to emerge outside, said her victory was the victory of maa, mati,manush [mother, motherland and the people].” She said she felt humbled by the mandate given to her.
Ms. Jayalalithaa restricted her initial appearance to a “namaste” from the balcony of her bungalow. Later, she thanked the people for reposing faith in her. She said the people had despatched a corrupt family that treated the State like its fief.