Mamata, Jaya crush Left, DMK; Congress sweeps Assam

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NEW DELHI, May 13 (IANS): India was poised to get two more women chief ministers as Mamata Banerjee`s tsunami destroyed 34 years of Left rule in West Bengal while veteran J. Jayalalithaa pounded the corruption-tainted DMK in Tamil Nadu in a manner not predicted even by pundits.

The Congress, on the winning side in West Bengal but a loser in Tamil Nadu, managed a remarkable hat trick in Assam after decimating a divided opposition, but huffed and puffed before narrowly overcoming a fighting Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala.

In Puducherry, the last of five provinces which went to the polls in April-May, the Congress was unseated by a breakaway group which had teamed up with Jayalalithaa`s AIADMK.

Although it put up a brave face, there was more bad news for the Congress in the two Lok Sabha by-elections.

The Congress was humiliated in Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh — a development bound to cost the party dearly in the politically crucial state — and defeated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bastar in Chhattisgarh.

In Kadapa, the Congress candidate came second but lost his deposit after Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, son of the late chief minister Y.S.R. Rajasekhara Reddy, retained the seat with a record margin of 543,053 votes — three times the winning margin of 2009.

`The Congress will have to introspect very seriously because it must be feeling a southern discomfort,` political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao told IANS. `Assam is very good news for the Congress but it deserves no credit for Bengal. The south seems to be slipping away.`

Southern India had accounted for a solid 60 of the Lok Sabha seats the Congress won in 2009 — a contribution that helped it retain power in New Delhi.

Without doubt, the most dramatic of victories Friday came from West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

Riding on a wave of discontent against the Communists who had been in power in West Bengal since 1977, Banerjee`s Trinamool Congress delivered a mortal blow to the Left. The Trinamool bagged 181 of the state`s 294 seats while its ally Congress won 42. The Left got 61 seats, one of its worst performances in decades.

As tens of thousands of Trinamool supporters celebrated the fascinating win, particularly outside the Kolkata residence of Banerjee, Biman Bose of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) admitted it was a rout.

Banerjee, who is expected to resign as the railway minister to move to Kolkata to be the first woman chief minister of West Bengal, met Governor M.K. Narayanan Friday evening.

The Trinamool wave crushed the Marxists all over West Bengal, even in areas where the Communists had never before tasted defeat.
Even Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, whose aggressive policy of industrialization sparked off protests in rural areas that helped Banerjee to ultimately cripple the Left, was humbled in Jadavpore.

Equally sensational was the AIADMK juggernaut in Tamil Nadu, which swept away the DMK and its allies that included the Congress. After a landslide victory, AIADMK leader Jayalalitha vowed to rebuild the state even as the party made it clear that it would not share power with its allies.

Needing 118 seats to form a government, the AIADMK had captured 153 seats on its own while its alliance, which included actor Vijayakanth`s MDMK and the two Communist parties, had crossed the 200-mark.

A stunned DMK retreated into silence.

AIADMK MP V. Maitreyan said the Tamil Nadu vote was against `family rule` — referring to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, his son and Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, central minister and elder son M.K. Alagiri and daughter M. Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP who faces possible arrest in the spectrum allocation scam.

The only cheer for Congress came in Assam where it bagged 78 of the 126 seats, a vast improvement on the last election, to come back to power for the third consecutive time.

While Congress Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi credited it to good governance, the opposition said the main reason were its divided ranks.

In Kerala too the Congress tasted victory but after many anxious hours — managing a majority of just one seat in a house of 140.

The new chief minister is expected to be Oommen Chandy of the Congress, which heads the victorious United Democratic Front (UDF). Most players in the state credited the Marxists` stunning show to Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who at age 87 proved to be the Left`s biggest vote catcher.

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