Political violence in panchayat election was the highlight of West Bengal politics in 2023

The West Bengal panchayat elections during the year witnessed widespread violence across several districts, leaving more than 40 people dead in inter party and intra-party clashes 

December 30, 2023 08:45 pm | Updated 08:45 pm IST - Kolkata

Remains of burnt vehicles after the recent violence during nominations for Panchayat elections, in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, on June 16, 2023. 

Remains of burnt vehicles after the recent violence during nominations for Panchayat elections, in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, on June 16, 2023.  | Photo Credit: PTI

With every passing year certain political realities gradually change while political inertia persists over some phenomenon. For instance, over the past few years the phenomenon of strikes and lockdowns may have gradually faded in West Bengal politics, but the bogey of political violence in the State shows no signs of abating. 

Political violence rocked West Bengal politics in 2023. The West Bengal panchayat elections held in 2023 witnessed widespread violence across several districts, leaving more than 40 people dead in inter party and intra-party clashes. The West Bengal government has put the figures at 28 and according to the Chief Minister it was the Trinamool Congress supporters who suffered maximum casualties. Violence and murders were reported almost every day from the day of issue of notification for the election on June 8 to the day of polling on July 9 and even on the day of counting on July 11. Certain areas of the State like Murshidabad, South 24 Parganas and Cooch Behar witnessed more murders and violence. 

For the rural elections in West Bengal, the stakes are much higher than Assembly elections and Lok Sabha elections. Political loyalties are fluid when thousands are contesting for a stake in local politics are vying for tickets across political parties.

Despite the intervention of the Calcutta High Court and deployment of the Central forces the West Bengal State Election Commission failed to put any check on the rampant violence. Even after the results were declared the violence did not end and panchayat pradhans of the Trinamool Congress were killed allegedly by the opposing faction of the ruling party. 

The recurrent and uncontrolled violence not only led to loss of life but also raised questions on the law and order situation of the State. The elections indicated that even after a stable government under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee for 12 years, it is difficult to shun violence when it comes to electoral politics in the State.

In 2023, West Bengal witnessed a few year Assembly byelections, but the most talked about was Saradighi byelection in Murshidabad district where the Left supported Congress candidate defeated the Trinamool Congress nominee in a constituency with 70% Muslim population.

While the development indicated a shift of Muslim electorate towards the third alternative, the elected MLA Byron Biswas defected to the ruling party weeks after the results were declared. During the year the Trinamool Congress maintained its political dominance by securing over 50% votes in panchayat elections and the BJP vote share continued to decline and plummeted to 20% in the rural elections.

Like the year 2022, scams and arrests by Central agencies also dominated the politics of the State. West Bengal Forest Minister Jyoti Priya Mallick was arrested for his alleged involvement in the scam involving the public distribution system. Trinamool MLA and leaders were arrested for alleged involvement in the school recruitment scam. 

Old guard vs New blood

The year also marked the rise of Trinamool leader Abhishek Banerjee as undisputed number two in the party. Mr. Banerjee took the MGNREGA protests to Delhi and also faced summons by the Central investigation agencies. In the Opposition space, particularly the BJP, Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari has risen as a contender to the Mamata-Abhishek duo.

In 2024, the debate of old guard versus the new blood in the Trinamool Congress will continue and will play out in the selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. While Abhishek Banerjee is in favour of new leaders, his aunt and party chairperson Mamata Banerjee wants the old loyalists to remain in prominent positions. In the previous Lok Sabha election held in 2019, BJP had won 18 seats and Trinamool was left with 22 and Congress party won two seats. West Bengal elects 42 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

The future of politics of the State hinges on how many seats will the Trinamool Congress win in 2024 Lok Sabha election. The parties of INDIA alliance which includes CPI(M) and Congress along with Trinamool are yet to arrive at a formula of seat sharing in the State for Lok Sabha election. The Lok Sabha election will also be a litmus test for BJP chances for 2026 Assembly elections and whether the CPI(M) and Congress can stay relevant as a third force in West Bengal. 

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.