Why Mamata isn't smiling despite sweeping West Bengal

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Not many chief ministers have been impressed by the victory of their Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi in the just concluded Lok Sabha election.

The CMs of Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar and Assam accepted moral responsibility after their respective parties were decimated in the polls. The chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, even resigned though there were reports that he was reconsidering his decision under pressure of his MLAs.

Mamata had a remarkable poll but she still isn't over the moon

But there are also chief ministers who have a different ball-game in their hand. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is one such incumbent. Her party Trinamool Congress (TMC) has swept the election in Bengal, winning 34 out of 42 seats and bagging 39 per cent of the vote-share. The TMC is the second-most successful regional party in this election after Jayalalithaa's AIADMK which has won 37 out of 39 seats in Tamil Nadu. But Banerjee's situation is still tricky as she is neither among losers like Omar Abdullah, Nitish Kumar, Akhilesh Yadav or Tarun Gogoi and nor she shares a good relation with the prime minister-to-be Modi like Jayalalithaa.

It was not without reason that the TMC supremo lacked the ecstasy one would have expected from her after sweeping the polls. The Left has neared its complete elimination in the state, something for which Banerjee has been striving for years, but still it didn't produce enough reason to smile. For the TMC supremo has discovered a fresh foe at her home called the BJP.

The rise of BJP in West Bengal

The saffron party, which bagged 2 seats and 17% vote-share in Bengal this time, lost closely in a number of constituencies. It has even taken a lead in Bhawanipore segment of South Kolkata constituency, a TMC den and the bastion of Banerjee herself.

Mamata's next challenge in 2016 looks tougher

For the ruling party of West Bengal, these are ominous signs. The next assembly election in Bengal is just two years from now and the 61% vote-share which rejected the party in this election could rise further, thanks to the anti-incumbency factor. And with the Left almost wiped out and the Congress annihilated, the BJP has the best chance to bag the anti-TMC votes. We have already seen in this Lok Sabha election how the BJP has capitalised on Left's decline.

[Read: Always fighting the Left, Mamata wasn't ready for the right]

Single-party majority govt at Centre reduces Mamata's significance despite her tally of 34 seats

There are also immediate concerns. Since there is a single-party majority government at the Centre this time, leaders like Banerjee can not enjoy the weight they have traditionally and could even face tough consequences in matters like Saradha scam.

Mamata won't find the 2016 assembly polls easy despite the decimation of Left

This fear in the TMC ranks is set to leave an adverse impact on the immediate relation between the Modi government at the Centre and the Mamata government in West Bengal. Successive West Bengal governments have accused the Centre of ignoring the state's interests over the years and Mamata Banerjee had a serious tiff with the previous UPA government on this issue even when she was a part of it. So there is little doubt that the conflict will continue in the near future as well.

Can Mamata mend ways with Modi now?

But like Jayalalithaa, can Banerjee get over the election-time differences to construct a positive approach towards the majority government of the BJP at the Centre and ensure that her tottering state sees better days ahead? Babul Supriyo, the Bollywood singer who won from Asansol on a BJP ticket this time, also raised this pertinent question.

Looks unlikely for Banerjee burnt the bridges to bag the minority votes

But for Banerjee, who will face an election much tougher than she would have expected in 2016, this is easier said than done. She chose to target Modi in the fiercest possible manner because she sought to polarize the voters. The mission was successful as the minority votes went her way even as she lost a chunk of Hindu votes. But now, taking a friendly approach towards Modi could be fraught with risk of losing the minority votes in the next assembly elections, more so if Modi comes up with an inclusive development in the next two years.

Banerjee's task in hand in the post-May 16 days isn't easy by any means. She has done well in this election compared to many of her counterparts but still there are questions to be answered.

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