CPM pays for Netai, suffers losses in Junglemahal

Among the Left Front's bastions to fall before the might of the Trinamool Congress on Friday was its strongest electoral ground in the state. By the time the vote count ended, the Mamata Banerjee-led coalition held 26 of the total 40 seats in Junglemahal, spread across three districts of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura, leaving the Left 14.

The Netai massacre, in which nine people were killed by suspected armed CPM cadres, is believed to have been behind the huge shift in tribal vote in a region that gave the Left 41 of the 45 seats here last time. This tribal support has now shifted the Trinamool way, despite the party's lack of an organisational presence here.

Junglemahal had even withstood Mamata's might during the 2009 parliamentary elections. While the Trinamool had swept most of the districts in Bengal at the time, the Left Front had led in 31 Assembly segments of the 40 in these three districts.

Apart from Keshpur in West Midnapore district, where CPM candidate Rameswar Dolui won by 35,000 votes, the victory margins of the party's all other nine victorious candidates from West Midnapore (out of 19 seats) were slender.

While Sushanta Ghosh, the man who led the Lalgarh re-capture with his private army, also won from Garbeta ó considered to be the capital of Junglemahal ó his victory margin of 15,000 votes was substantially down from last time. West Bengal Law Minister Rabilal Moitra lost by almost 30,000 votes in Gopiballavpur.

Political observers say the tribals came out to vote for the Trinamool after the removal of all armed CPM cadre camps from West Midnapore in the wake of the Netai incident. While that meant tribals faced lesser intimidation from CPM cadres, the absence of a poll boycott call by the Maoists is also believed to have helped the Trinamool.

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