Mamata Banerjees Trinamool Congress has reinforced its position as the single dominant political force in West Bengal after results of the three tier panchayat election were announced on Thursday. As was expected, TMC has swept most of the gram panchayat (GP), pachayat samiti (PS) and zilla parishad (ZP) seats across 19 districts as counting of votes across 291 centres continued till late on Thursday evening.
Of the 31,826 gram panchayat seats on offer, TMC had won 21,367 seats while the BJP has come a distant second with 5,171 seats across the state.
In the panchayat samiti and zila parishad seats, the TMCs strike rate is even higher winning close to 90 per cent of the seats. While the results may not come as a surprise to many, a crucial aspect of this panchayat result is the clear emergence of the BJP as the principal opposition force in the state.
The party - which barely had a presence in the 2013 polls - has come out as the clear number 2 in the state, replacing the Left.
Most importantly, the saffron brigade has registered significant victories in zilla parishad seats, crossing the double digit mark as per results released till late in the evening. In at least 15 districts, the BJP has scored more than the Left in panchayat samitis.
But the biggest gain for the saffron party has come from the grass root at the panchayat level. In districts like Jhargram, BJP has given TMC a close fight. Of the 780 gram panchayat seats in the district, BJP has won 329 as against TMCs 375.
In tribal dominated Purulia, out of 1,921 gram panchayat seats, TMC has won 754 while BJP has bagged 528. In districts like South and North 24 Parganas, Bankura, West Midnapore, Nadia, Malda and Alipurduar, the party has done well.
"We may be in the second spot but our fight is to be the number one party here. It is an impossible situation in which we fought against anti-socials. Now BJP is everywhere on the field, our fight for parivartan has began," state BJP president Dilip Ghosh has told India Today.
The results once again show that the Left has not been able to contain its downslide in the state. Interestingly, independents have won more seats that the Left this time, winning 1,465 gram panachayat seats, a tally which is higher than that of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) which bagged 1,186 seats till late in the evening.
In most cases, the independent candidates were dissident TMC members who were denied tickets by the party.
The trouble torn Bhangar area in South 24 Parganas district comes as a silver lining for the opposition, especially the Left.
The region which witnessed massive violence during these elections leading to TMC strongman Arabul Islams arrest last week saw five opposition backed independent candidates winning in the gram panchayat. While Islam may be behind bars, he has managed to secure his panchayat seat comfortably.
All the candidates were backed by the Committee for Protection of Land, Livelihood, Ecology and Environment (CPLLEE) which is spearheading an anti-land acquisition movement against the Mamata Banerjee government along with members of the CPI(ML) Red Star.
Interestingly, like the rest of the state, opposition candidates here too had complained that they could not file their nomination due to being intimidation by the ruling TMC.
Finally, after the intervention of the Calcutta High Court, nominations were filed online via WhatsApp messenger as per directions of the court.
Thanking the people of the state for her partys victory, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that her party had won despite the entire opposition ganging up against the TMC, discarding their ideological positions.
Hitting out at Prime Minister Modi for his remark, Banerjee said, "There has been a lot of slander and insult against us. Even the way the PM spoke, we did not expect him to speak in such a manner. We expect a PM not to speak against a CM in a manner that tarnishes the constitution."