Bharatiya Janata Party in West Bengal is steadily gaining ground in rural areas. In recently concluded Panchayat elections the party captured two Zilla Parishad seats in Malda and Birbhum. In addition, the party has wrested 184 seats in Panchayat Samitis and another 1,271 Gram Panchayat seats mostly from the ruling CPM.
The BJP state secretary Rahul Sinha had earlier appealed to all anti-Left parties to forge an alliance against the Left forces in Panchayat elections. Although Mamata Banerjee'sTrinamul Congress, largest Opposition Party in West Bengal, angrily turned down Sinha'sappeal, it was ordinary villagers who had forced such an anti-Left alliance without party flags at least in seven districts. The BJP candidates without their party symbol (lotus) won 9 seats in Samitis and 159 seats in Gram Panchayats. As a result, four Panchayat Samitis will be directly under BJP against only one in the last 2003 Panchayat elections in the state. Moreover, there will be 76 BJP Pradhans in the lowest tier of Panchayati Raj.
No doubt, the success is phenomenon considering widespread violence and rigging unleashed by the CPM during the election run-up this year.
As Bengal watched red terror with fear and disbelief, the state'sthree-phase seventh Panchayat elections came to a bloody end on May 18. At least 24 people were killed and another 150 maimed by armed gangs of red brigade during the three-phase polling. This is a clear reminder that rural governance through peaceful democratic process is not possible under the CPM-led government.
The results of the seventh Panchayat elections in the state have clearly showed that the BJP has its support base in all the 17 districts of West Bengal. However, success of the Opposition in rural Bengal against the ruling CPM is only the beginning of a long bitter tussle to end the misrule of the communists in the state. True, there will be polling in six or seven municipalities on June 29. But the real trial of strength will be witnessed only in the Lok Sabha poll scheduled to be held early next year. No individual political party has organisational network to match the CPM'stime-tested election machinery in the state. But if major Opposition parties are united together to fight against the Left in 1:1 formula in order to prevent division of anti-Left votes then it is possible to defeat Left candidates in majority Lok Sabha seats. The effectiveness of this formula has been proved in the recent Panchayat elections as all conscious Opposition candidates have won in Gram Panchayat poll. There was no conscious candidate in Zilla Parishads and in most Panchayat Samitis thanks to Mamata Banerjee'sdictum, ?My party Trinamul Congress will go alone in Panchayat elections. We shall never forge an alliance with the BJP as well as Congress. My party has strength to defeat the CPM.?