Trinamool Congress is poised to sweep violence marred West Bengal panchayat polls

The results of West Bengal panchayat polls have come as shot in the arm for the TMC ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year

July 11, 2023 08:22 am | Updated July 12, 2023 01:04 pm IST - Kolkata

TMC supporters celebrate the party’s lead during the counting of votes of West Bengal panchayat polls, in Howrah, on July 11, 2023.

TMC supporters celebrate the party’s lead during the counting of votes of West Bengal panchayat polls, in Howrah, on July 11, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Trends in the counting for the West Bengal panchayat elections results on Tuesday indicated that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is poised for a massive victory in the State’s rural polls. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the election was marred by violence in which more than 35 people lost their lives over a month-long election process, the trends at the time of counting indicated that West Bengal’s ruling party has won more than 90% seats for which results had been declared by Tuesday evening.

Thousands gathered outside counting centres and security forces had to use force to control the violence.

Results for 2,702 of 3,317 gram panchayats have been declared and the TMC has won in 2,228 gram panchayats in the State. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won in 203 gram panchayats, followed by 63 for the Congress party, and 53 by the Left Front. The Indian Secular Front managed to win eight gram panchayats, while 21 of the rural bodies went to others. In 126 gram panchayats, there is no clear winner.

In terms of seats at the gram panchayat level, the Trinamool Congress has won 16,330 gram panchayat seats out of the 23,344 seats declared, besides leading in 3,002 seats, according to the State Election Commission, till 5.30 p.m. Its nearest rival, the BJP, has won 3,790 seats and is leading in 802 seats. Elections were held for all 63,229 gram panchayat seats. 

Editorial |Alarm bells: on the violence in the West Bengal panchayat elections

Of the 341 panchayat samitis that went to polls, results were out in 126 of the second tier local bodies, and the TMC has won in 114 of the panchayat samitis. The BJP has won in nine panchayat samitis and the Left Front has won three panchayat samitis. Results have not been declared for any of the 20 zilla parishads. 

The results, which arrive less than a year ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, are a shot in the arm for the Trinamool Congress, which has been battling allegations of corruption and scams.

Not only did the Trinamool Congress perform well in its bastion of south Bengal, the results in north Bengal and southwest Bengal also indicated massive support for the ruling party. Large areas in north Bengal and southwest Bengal had voted for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and 2021 Assembly polls. 

While the BJP did not fare well in the rural polls, there was improvement in the performance of the Left parties and the Congress in Malda and Murshidabad districts. 

Trinamool Congress general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said that the party will have a roaring mandate, with the rural polls paving the way for Lok Sabha elections. “Even a malicious campaign with baseless propaganda to malign the AITC [All India Trinamool Congress] State Govt in WB [West Bengal] couldn’t sway the voters! Grateful to the people for converting Opposition ‘NO VOTE TO MAMATA’ campaign to ‘NOW VOTE FOR MAMATA,” Mr. Abhishek Banerjee posted on Twitter. 

“The dejection of the combined opposition of BJP, CPIM [Communist Party of India-Marxist] & INC [Indian National Congress] pales in comparison to the sadness that must be felt by friends from mainstream media. Even a malicious campaign with baseless propaganda to malign the AITC State Govt in WB couldn’t sway the voters,” he added.

Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Suvendu Adhikari alleged large-scale irregularities and malpractices in the elections, including during the counting process on Tuesday. He said that in the 2018 panchayat polls, the BJP had not won in a single gram panchayat in the State, and that the party has registered a better performance.

“We salute the people that despite all these [hurdles], they have supported the Left Front candidates,” CPI(M) State secretary Md. Salim said.

Governor C.V. Ananda Bose, who had rushed to Delhi to provide a report on the violence, called all political parties to work for the well-being of the State since the elections are over. “Political parties should realise elections are not grounds to examine one’s physical strength,” he said. 

Though elaborate security arrangements had been made at the counting centres, allegations of irregularities and malpractices surfaced during the counting process. Counting agents of the Opposition parties alleged that they had been forcibly driven out of counting centres. At some places, counting agents of Opposition parties were also assaulted. There were allegations of valid ballots in favour of Left parties found in a drain near a counting centre, and at one place, a candidate allegedly ate the ballot papers of the opposing candidates to ensure his victory.

Counting of votes for 73,887 seats, which include 63,239 gram panchayat seats, 9,730 panchayat samiti seats, and 928 zilla parishad seats, began on Tuesday at 8 a.m. at 339 counting centres in the State. The counting is likely to conclude on Wednesday. Polling for the panchayat elections was held across 61,636 booths on July 8. Re-polling for about 676 polling booths was held on June 10.

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