Asim Kumar Mitra
This morning (On 30th July, 2013) almost all newspapers published from Kolkata have put forward their opinion about the result of Panchayat elections in West Bengal held in the 2nd and 3rd week of July, that Trinamool Congress has clearly established their hold in rural Bengal. The Kolkata edition of Hindustan Times said: “The cycle of Parivartan or Change kicked off by the Trinamool Congress in 2009 — the party led alliance won 26 seats in the parliamentary polls —— came a full circle on Monday as the party swept the Panchayat polls in the state, thereby establishing complete dominance at both the assembly and the grassroots level i.e. Panchayat”.
Kolkata-based newspaper The Telegraph put its headline as “Mamata takes heart” It further said “Cong bleeds in north, Left in the middle”. Then it went on making its comment: “Still unfolding Panchayat poll results signaled that Mamata Banerjee is working her way up the spine of Bengal, expanding her reach from the southern toe to capture what was once the Red heart in central Bengal and smash a Congress further to the north”.
The Kolkata edition of “The Times of India” has put the headline as “Rural bengal now in didi’s grasp”. It said, “The green surge that crushed Bengal’s 34-year-old Red citadel two years ago has swamped the countryside but is just short of a sweep.”
Apart from the pre-poll and post-poll violence, some peculiar developments have been noticed during this election. In this election BJP has become a great factor in the sense that it had polled larger number of votes than last time but paradoxically it had won in lesser number seats than last time. In fact, CPM was happy with the trend of voting in favour of BJP as many such voters were youths of TMC. Only because of this trend CPM or for that matter the Left Front could retain the second position in the poll results. Further it is because of this reason the winning Left Front candidates or the Congress candidates had won with slender majority. This peculiarity was conspicuously evident in this election.
Among 17 Zilla Parishads TMC has won 13, another four parishads are on hung position. It is expected that TMC may win two among four. Even under this circumstances the projected Lok Sabha tally extrapolated from the rural grassroots would put Trinamool’s seats at 27 out of 42,a prospect that would give Mamata enormous bargaining power in national politics.
However, the Trinamool victory came without a contest in 15 per cent of the gram Panchayat seats, where rival candidates were allegedly not allowed to even file their nominations. In another 10 per cent seats, the party fought renegades who contested as Independents.
But one thing was clear. Just as in the 2011 assembly polls, the Trinamool had stormed one left bastion after another and anti-incumbency had no effect. Neither did the Saradha Chit Fund scam or the deteriorating law and order situation.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose harped on a conspiracy theory all over again. “At many counting stations, the Trinamool Congress did not allow our agents to enter. Initially there were reports of our leads, but then agents were thrown out of the centres and our seats were reduced,” Bose said.
The Congress agreed with Bose, “We have constantly alleged a reign of terror. In 20 per cent of the seats our candidates could not file nominations,” claimed Pradesh Congress Committee president Pradip Bhattacharya.
There were great expectations on the part of state BJP that they would do well in this as the new generation of the people especially youths had shown so much interest in BJP that they would in a determining position for future political decisions. But it did not work as Rahul Sinha, State BJP president candidly admitted that the poor result was expected in a four-cornered contest. Senior BJP leader Tathagata Roy said that the state is yet to come out of bipolar politics.
“In the 2008 Panchayat polls, we had an unofficial understanding with the Trinamool Congress, which was the reason for our good performance. But with all parties going alone this time, the result was expected for us,” Sinha said.
In 2008, BJP won two zilla parishad seats in Birbhum and Malda. 164 Panchayat Samiti seats and more than a thousand gram Panchayat seats. The party controlled four Panchayat samitis and 76 gram Panchayat. The only consolation for the BJP this time is that its arch rival at the national level, Congress, also has not fared too well.
Another important highlight is this that the Trinamool rebels contested as Independents and contested against official candidates of the ruling party would be running five Panchayats in the state.