May 2, 2021, the hundredth birth anniversary of filmmaker Satyajit Ray, will forever belong to Mamata Banerjee. Defeating all odds, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), headed by her, coasted to a comfortable and credible majority in West Bengal, winning 216 seats, bettering its performance of 211 in the outgoing Assembly. While she lost her own seat, Nandigram, her party’s performance elicited opposition congratulations from across the country.
The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala also posted stunning gains, winning 97 seats, up from 91 in 2016, suggesting incumbency can also be a positive in elections. In Tamil Nadu, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) alliance put up a brave fight (85 seats) but could not save its government, yielding to the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam alliance (149 seats), whose leader, M K Stalin will become chief minister for the first time. The Congress is a DMK ally.
In Assam, the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retained its hold by winning 76 seats and defeating the Congress, which slipped from its 2016 tally of 51 seats to 48. The BJP, in alliance with the NR Congress, won 13 seats in Puducherry with the Congress getting five, but the majority needed is 15. In this situation of a hung assembly, independents (3) and defectors from the Congress may have to come to the aid of the NR Congress-BJP alliance. The current officiating lieutenant governor may be called upon to lend a helping hand.
However, the elections were not a net loss for the BJP. In West Bengal, the party went up from three seats in the outgoing assembly to 74. Unlike in Madhya Pradesh, where an assertive BJP could topple an opposition government, in West Bengal, which was a prestige election, the TMC’s majority is too large to attempt any such moves. The BJP fell grossly short of its claim that it would cross 200 seats and could not even reach half that figure.
In Kerala too, while its vote share has improved, it scored zero.
E Sreedharan, much acclaimed as metro man, lost the Palakkad seats by a convincing margin of 7,000 votes. The BJP chief in the state, K Surendran, lost both the seats he fought. However, some notable winners in Kerala were Health Minister K K Shailaja, who is credited with managing the pandemic efficiently. Her victory margin was a stupendous 61,000 votes. Former chief minister and Congress leader Oommen Chandy won his seat. As chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan gets down to forming the government, who his choice for finance minister will be is an open question as outgoing finance minister and frequently a dissenting voice in the GST Council, Thomas Isaac, did not contest election this time.
In Assam, questions are already being asked about who won the election for the BJP: Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal or his deputy, Himanta Biswa Sarma, widely considered the architect of the victory in a campaign where the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) dominated. Biswa Sarma won his constituency, Jaluk Bari, for the fifth consecutive time, by a margin of 100,000 votes. Both have thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and BJP President J P Nadda for the party’s victory, but not each other. Akhil Gogoi, leader of the farmer body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and president of a new regional political party, Raijor Dal, is in prison but won from the Sibsagar constituency against BJP candidate Surabhi Rajkonwar by a margin of 9,000 votes.
In Tamil Nadu, while Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy (EPS) and deputy O Panneerselvam won their seats, the AIADMK alliance’s performance owes itself to the good showing of its alliance partner, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), in the region dominated by the Vanniyar community. In this region the PMK has managed to win 4 seats. Without this, the AIADMK’s tally would have been lower. The party’s other alliance partner, the BJP, appears to have dragged it down in half a dozen seats. In the Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha byelection, the BJP candidate, Pon Radhakrishnan, former Union minister, was trailing against the Congress candidate, V Vasanth. Actor Kamalahaasan, who launched his own political party ahead of elections, has lost in Coimbatore.
An earlier version of this story wrongly mentioned that the PMK had won 16 seats in the Tamil Nadu assembly elections, when in fact it had won 4. Likewise, Actor Kamalahaasan had lost from Coimbatore, and hadn't won as reported earlier. The errors are regretted.