KOLKATA: West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress trounced its opponents to wrest the Noapara assembly seat from the Congress and retained the Uluberia Lok Sabha seat on Thursday with a mammoth margin even as the BJP emerged its main challenger.
Trinamool candidates led convincingly from the outset and consolidated their position after every round during the counting of votes cast on January 29 during the bypolls for both the seats.
Left Front spearhead Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) not only finished third in both the constituencies, but even forfeited the security deposit at Uluberia.
The Congress put up a poor show, taking the fourth position and losing their deposit in both the constituencies.
Trinamool's Sajda Ahmed routed her nearest rival Anupam Mallick of the BJP by 4,74.201 votes in Uluberia, which has a large Muslim population. She got 7,67,219 votes, as against Mallick's 2,93,018.
In the 2014 general elections, Trinamool's Sultan Ahmed had defeated his closest opponent Sabir Uddin Molla of the CPI-M by a little over two lakh votes. His death necessitated the bypoll, with the Trinamool nominating his widow Sajda.
Molla, who was the CPI-M candidate this time also, saw a massive erosion of support. He managed only 1,38,792 votes, over 2.30 lakh less than in 2014.
Three years back, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had managed only 11.55 per cent of the valid votes in Uluberia. This time it increased its votes by more than 1.65 lakh.
Congress' Madassar Hossain Warsi was backed by a mere 23,108 voters.
In the Noapara bypoll, necessitated by the death of sitting Congress legislator Madhusudan Ghose, Trinamool's Sunil Singh won by more than 63,018 votes over his nearest rival Sandip Banerjee of the BJP.
Singh could woo 1,01,729 of the voters, while Banerjee obtained 38,711 votes.
CPI-M candidate Gargi Chatterjee finished a close third with 35,497 votes, after running second in the initial rounds of counting.
Congress candidate Goutam Bose finished a distant fourth, getting the support of 10,527 electors. His party had triumphed in Noapara in 2016 assembly polls in alliance with the Left Front.
Congratulating the voters, Trinamool Secretary General Partha Chatterjee said the people of the state have "full faith" in the development agenda of his party and its leader and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and the latest by-polls yet again was an affirmation of that.
"There was never any doubt about our victory. The fight was for the second and third places."
Regarding BJP raising its vote share substantially, Chatterjee said: "A section of the CPI-M and Congress's ground level workers have been switching allegiance to the BJP out of their animosity for the Trinamool. They felt neither the CPI-M, nor the Congress, stood a chance against the Trinamool. So they opted for the BJP."