2024 Lok Sabha Election Result LIVE: "Will Certainly Help INDIA...": Mamata Banerjee As Bloc Pegs Back BJP

Last month Ms Banerjee said "I am very much part of INDIA... it was my brainchild", but made it clear she wanted no truck with Mr Chowdhury, whom today she called a "BJP man".

2024 Lok Sabha Election Result LIVE: 'Will Certainly Help INDIA...': Mamata Banerjee As Bloc Pegs Back BJP
New Delhi:

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has seen off a forceful challenge by the BJP for majority control of the state's 42 Lok Sabha seats and offered cautious support to the INDIA bloc, which today chucked an outsized spanner in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'abki baar, 400 paar' plans.

The amicable reference to the INDIA group - of which her Trinamool is still (formally) a member, despite January's acrimonious end to seat-share talks with the Congress - is an echo of remarks from last month, when she spoke of "outside support" if the opposition bloc were to win the poll.

"I will certainly help INDIA... I have many friends and will try to see Modi is out," she said this evening, after 11 hours of vote-counting left the BJP just 20 seats over the majority mark of 272.

The Prime Minister's party sailed past that mark in 2014 and 2019, and formed governments that functioned sans allies. This meant the BJP could frame and pass laws without any real opposition.

In 2024 however, driven by unexpected surges - the Samajwadi Party's record haul in Uttar Pradesh - and expected routs - like Tamil Nadu, where the BJP was blanked for a second consecutive election - the INDIA bloc is set to win well over 200 seats, 100 more than member-parties managed last time.

The group is still well short of numbers to beat the BJP, but this does mean Mr Modi must now rely on NDA partners - including the JDU of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has the unfortunate reputation of flip-flopping between alliances, as he did in February when he quit the INDIA bloc.

In Bengal the Trinamool is on course to win 29 seats - seven more than it managed in the 2019 election. More significant, though, is Ms Banerjee dragging the BJP's tally down to just 12.

In 2019 - on the back of a shrill campaign from both sides - the BJP claimed 18 seats, 16 more than it managed five years earlier. The party also increased its vote share by a staggering 22.2 per cent.

Exit polls believed something different; a poll of exit polls gave the BJP 23 seats and the Trinamool 18, with the Congress picking up the final seat. Ms Banerjee rubbished the predictions, calling them "manufactured by two people" - a jibe at Mr Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Bengal defended, Ms Banerjee, it appears, is now looking to the national political landscape, where there are whispers the INDIA bloc could sneak in a bid at government formation if they convince Nitish Kumar and incoming Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to sign up.

Nitish Kumar has 12 seats and Mr Naidu will have 16, giving the NDA a revised score of 253 and the opposition grouping 261. That still won't be enough to claim a majority administration, but will set the Congress-led group on its way to do what would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago.

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Ms Banerjee's "outside support" remarks, underline the tenuous relationship between her Trinamool and the Congress, but this is a relationship that could improve now after Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury lost his Berhampur seat to the ruling party's ex-cricket-turned-politician candidate, Yusuf Pathan.

Last month Ms Banerjee said "I am very much part of INDIA... it was my brainchild", but made it clear she wanted no truck with Mr Chowdhury, whom today she called a "BJP man".

Mr Chowdhury, for his part, has never been comfortable with the Trinamool; he responded to that barb with his own, saying Ms Banerjee couldn't be trusted and might even ally with the BJP.

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The Bengal leader also offered congratulations to Akhilesh Yadav for his Samajwadi Party's showing in UP, and said she had texted the Congress' Rahul Gandhi for big wins in Wayanad and Raebareli.

On the subject of Mr Gandhi there was a slight jab that emphasised the Congress and Trinamool's fragile ties. "I have texted Rahul also... (there was no response)... maybe they were busy."

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"They haven't contacted us yet... but it doesn't matter if they do or don't."

The breakdown in talks with the Congress included Ms Banerjee being miffed by the party not issuing a formal invitation to her to attend Mr Gandhi's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra 2.0' when it passed through Bengal.

Mr Yadav's SP and the Trinamool, with the DMK from Tamil Nadu and the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance from Maharashtra, have been at the forefront of the INDIA's challenge to the BJP, with the Samajwadi Party closing in on a record haul of 37 seats.

More importantly that restricted the BJP and its allies to just 34 seats in a state in which it won 64 last time, and in which it needed to score as big (if not bigger) to hit its 'abki baar, 400 paar' target.

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