Mamata Banerjee is stacking up a huge victory in Bengal over the BJP in state elections that were held over the past two months as Covid cases surged in India. The Trinamool is projected to win 205 of Bengal's 294 seats, according to NDTV's forecast. The BJP is likely to settle for 75-85.
Mamata Banerjee emerged today for the first time without her wheelchair - which became a constant in her campaign after she suffered a leg injury in Nandigram on March 10 - and said to celebrating party workers: "All of you who have gathered here, I want to thank you all. You all have worked very hard."
Stating that she would speak to the media later, she added: "This has been Bengal's big win. Till I address the press, I appeal to you all to go home and take a shower, sanitise well and maintain social distance from others. Please do not crowd around and indulge in celebrations."
The Bengal leads are a huge blow for the BJP, which staked its top leaders, resources and formidable election machinery in Bengal, determined to snatch the key state from two-time Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah addressed 51 rallies in 50 days.
"Khela Hobe (game on)," became the Trinamool's catch phrase for these elections as it faced the BJP's mighty election machinery, supported by Trinamool defectors who have been crossing over to the BJP over the past few years. The BJP countered by saying "Khela shesh (game over)" – but that will now come back to haunt the party.
PM Modi, top BJP leaders and Mamata Banerjee held crowded campaigns where safety rules like masks and distancing were discarded.
In a campaign that often pushed the limits of decorum, both the Trinamool and the BJP exchanged bitter allegations and personal attacks.
The Trinamool took strong exception to PM Modi's repeated taunts at Mamata Banerjee, embellished with the phrase "Didi o Didi".
Mamata Banerjee's celebrations were dimmed somewhat by her close fight in Nandigram against her former lieutenant-turned-BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari .
The Chief Minister trailed for hours in Nandigram, which, ironically, catapulted her to victory the first time round in 2011, when she ended the Left's three-decade rule in Bengal. In the afternoon, she gained a slim lead.
The BJP seems to have lost the gains it made in the state in the 2019 national elections, when it stunned the Trinamool by winning 18 of Bengal's 42 Lok Sabha seats. Mamata Banerjee's party seems to have gained over 20 assembly seats since.
As Bengal voted in a record eight rounds that ended on Thursday, India saw a steep rise in daily Covid cases and deaths.
The crowded campaigns presented frightening visuals when India was clocking more than three lakh cases a day in April.
On Saturday, Bengal reported the highest one-day COVID-19 deaths – 103 – and over 17,500 cases.
Since April 30, Bengal has been placed under a partial lockdown.