The crucial electoral battle for 81 municipalities seen as the ‘semi-final’ to next year’s West Bengal assembly elections, the run up to which was marked by acrimony between allies Trinamool Congress and Congress, will be held tomorrow.
The 141-ward Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) is the bone of contention between the two allies with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and WBPCC President Pranab Mukherjee trading barbs thick and fast.
For the ruling Left Front, which is in power in most of the civic bodies, it will be a litmus test after the string of electoral defeats since the 2008 panchayat polls and last year’s Lok Sabha elections to ascertain whether it will reap dividends from the decision of Congress and Trinamool Congress to go alone in the civic elections.
As for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, it will also be a crucial test to ascertain the party’s strength prior to the assembly elections.
The war of words between the Trinamool Congress and Congress started with the former unilaterally announcing its candidates for the KMC and offering the ally just 24 of the 141 wards.
The Congress had demanded 51 wards, including the ones where it either came first or second in the last KMC poll held in 2005.
Ms. Banerjee had even accused Congress of helping the CPI(M) by dividing votes and taken potshots by claiming that her party was not in the UPA at the “mercy” of anyone, but on its own strength.
She had also claimed that the situation in West Bengal had changed for her party not agreeing to the ally’s terms.
The WBPCC chief, on the other hand, criticised Ms. Banerjee for attempting to marginalise his party in the state.
Mr. Mukherjee had questioned whether Trinamool Congress had won 19 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 on its own strength or with support from his party. He felt that May 30 civic elections would offer scope to justify the Trinamool’s claim.
Ms. Banerjee has also been claiming that next year’s assembly elections could be advanced.
The two parties, however, have reached local level adjustments in some municipalities including those in Burdwan district.
During the last 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the two parties had dealt a severe blow to the Left Front bagging 25 out of the total 42 seats - Trinamool 19 and Congress six.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee while treating the Congress with kid gloves during campaigning tore into the Trinamool Congress, accusing it of being a lawless party.
Of the 81 civic bodies, 51 are held by the Left Front.
These include those districts like North 24 Parganas where the Left citadel has crumbled. Of the 21 municipalities, Left runs the board in 19.
Elections will also be held to the 25-ward Bidhannagar municipality, besides in 21 municipalities in North 24 Parganas, 12 in Hooghly, seven in Nadia, six each in Burdwan, Murshidabad and West Midnapore, four in Coochbehar, three each in Purulia, Bankura and Birbhum and South 24 Parganas, two each in East Midnapore and Malda and one each in Jalpaiguri and Howrah.