KOLKATA: Aided by the withdrawal of BJP's candidate at the last moment, the Trinamool Congress today managed to retain the Howrah Lok sabha seat with a comfortable margin.
BJP today also claimed that its decision not to field candidate had helped Trinamool Congress retain the Howrah Lok Sabha seat, but said the drop in the winning margin was a "warning to TMC".
"It is known to everyone that our decision not to contest the Howrah parliamentary by-election, which was our party decision, has helped Trinamool Congress win and retain the seat," BJP's state president Rahul Sinha told PTI.
He claimed that there was a "substantial drop in the winning margin" of the Trinamool Congress "which should be a warning for the party".
The BJP had decided at the fag end of the poll process, not to field candidate following instruction from the party's national president,Rajnath Singh.
Had the BJP contested the bye-election, Congress would have slid to fourth position, Sinha added.
Dispelling the negativity surrounding the Mamata Banerjee-government post Saradha scam, TMC candidate and former international footballer Prasun Banerjee defeated his nearest CPI-M rival Sridip Bhattacharjee by a margin of over 27,000 votes.
While TMC and CPI-M grabbed 4,26,273 and 3,99,258 votes respectively, the Congress candidate became a distant third securing 96,727 votes.In 2009, TMC had an alliance with the Congress and won the seat by a margin of more than 37,000 votes.
However, TMC-Congress had a lead of over 1,80,000 votes in 2011 assembly election in the seven seats that comes under Howrah Lok Sabha constituency. A comparison with political's party's vote share shows it was the absence of BJP that determined today's election result in favour of TMC.
While TMC got 44.62% votes, CPI-M secured 41.70%. It should be noted that BJP had secured about 4-5% votes in 2009 Lok Sabha and 2011 assembly elctions in the area respectively. As it is believed that BJP's votes are more inclined to go to TMC than the Left in absence of the party, analysts poitned out, BJP's absence favoured TMC.
Left and Congress, however, were quick to accuse TMC of having an "understanding" with BJP ahead of 2014 general election. "The Howrah Lok Sabha seat was BJP's gift to TMC," said senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed.
BJP, which had secured over 50,000 votes in 2011 in the area withdrew its candidate at the last moment, despite announcing its candidate earlier.
But this time it was always a close battle, given that TMC was contesting on its own and opposition made the Saradha scam and TMC's alleged assoiciation with such companies a major campaign issue.
The by-election was necessitated following the death of Trinamool Congress MP Ambika Banerjee.
Reacting to the poll result West Bengal chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee said, "This time we have fought Parliamentary by-election at Howrah all alone. A new era is born. Our candidate Prasun Banerjee, an Arjun awardee, has won the election today."