Mamata Banerjee's TMC was Thursday facing massive headwinds in key battleground state of West Bengal where it is locked in a neck-and-neck fight with the BJP, with the state's ruling party leading in 22 Lok Sabha seats and the challenger saffron outfit in 19.
According to latest Election Commission figures, the BJP was also the main contender in 21 of the 22 seats where the Trinamool Congress was leading. The saffron party was giving the TMC a run for its money even in terms of vote share having polled 39.81 per cent of votes counted so far.
The TMC has clinched 43.8 per cent. The four-party Left Front, once a formidable force in the state, has garnered a measly 7.8 per cent of votes so far, and its candidates are leading in none of the state's 42 Lok Sabha seats. Congress's Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the sitting MP from Baharampur, was leading the table in his constituency by over 80,000 votes.
Abhijit Mukherjee, the son of former President Pranab Mukherjee and sitting MP from Jangipur, was nowhere in contention. Mamata Banerjee, who defended her terrain like a tigress since becoming the chief minister in 2011, ending the Left Front's unbroken 34-year rule, called a press conference at her Kalighat home in the afternoon which was "cancelled" without assigning any reason. Banerjee didn't show up and a security guard curtly told journalists the interaction wouldn't happen.
Her strident denunciation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies, including his insistence on pressing ahead with contentious issues like the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the National Register of citizens, had catapulted her to the forefront of the forces arrayed against the BJP and the NDA in the election.
The TMC had clinched 34 seats with 39.65 per cent of votes in 2014. Though the Left front pocketed 29.71 per cent votes, it could manage just two seats. The BJP, which was then considered a marginal player, had secured two seats with 17.02 per cent votes, and the Congress four seats, polling 9.58 per cent votes.
Though Banerjee did not hold the planned presser, she took to Twitter to congratulate the prospective winners. "Congratulations to the winners. But all losers are not losers. We have to do a complete review and then we will share our views with you all. Let the counting process be completed fully and the VVPATs match," she had tweeted before she calling the press.
In Asansol, Union minister Babul Supriyo has established an unassailable lead of more than 1.46 lakh votes over his nearest TMC rival and yesteryear film actor Moon Moon Sen. However, another Union minister S S Ahluwalia, who had shifted from Darjeeling to Burdwan-Durgapur seat, was trailing his TMC rival Mumtaz Sanghamita by 129 votes.
Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, has increased his lead to more than 3 lakh votes in Diamond Harbour constituency. He is the sitting MP from the seat. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh has established an unassailable lead of more than 81,000 votes over Manas Ranjan Bhunia of the TMC in Medinipur.
In Barrackpore, former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, who was trailing his BJP challenger Arjun Singh, has now established a lead of little over 2,000 votes over his rival. In Kolkata North constituency, two-time TMC MP from the seat Sudip Bandopadhyay is leading his BJP rival and party national secretary Rahul Sinha by a comfortable margin of over 95,000 votes.
As the trends indicated a setback for Banerjee's party, her residence at Kalighat and TMC headquarters at E M Bypass looked abandoned. There was hardly any leader to be spotted.
Even though police had cordoned off the area around Banerjee's residence apprehending a huge turnout of supporters, only a handful of them were seen loitering around sullenly. The TMC headquarters were desolate with only a few policemen standing guard.