The Trinamool Congress has swept the West Bengal panchayat elections, with results still trickling in. In Jangalmahal and north Bengal where the Bharatiya Janata Party did well in the 2018 panchayat polls and the 2021 assembly elections, the TMC has staged a strong comeback. Leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari from the BJP managed to save his fort of Nandigram though his party was decimated in many other places. The opposition party though says the TMC’s victory is because of large-scale rigging and violence.
A BJP fact-finding team will also visit violence-affected areas in the state on Wednesday. The saffron party and other opposition outfits have said that they do not consider the elections to be free and fair.
A close look at key regions shows that in Cooch Behar, with 2,507 gram panchayat seats, the TMC bagged 1,675, BJP 524, CPI(M) 11, Congress 5, All India Forward Bloc 6, and independents 18
Out of the 128 gram panchayats, the TMC looks set to form boards in 102. It had bagged 79 gram panchayats in the latest results, the BJP was ahead in 19, four were hung, and counting was going on for others.
In 2018, Trinamool had won only 1,049 contested gram panchayat seats out of a total of 1,966, among which 1,295 were contested.
Results coming in from Alipurduar indicated 783 of the total 1,252 seats going to the TMC, 387 to BJP, 20 to CPI(M), 34 to independents and others, while 27 seats were yet to be decided and one had been countermanded.
Out of the 64 gram panchayats here, TMC appeared to have won 55 with a clear majority, while six seemed headed for hung results. In 2018, TMC only had 40 of these gram panchayats under its control.
The results coming in indicate the TMC regaining ground in north Bengal, with the BJP making its mark here in previous elections in recent times.
Purulia, Bankura, Paschim Medinipur, and Jhargram comprise the region known as Jangalmahal. The BJP faced setbacks here compared to last time.
Of Jhargram’s 1,007 seats, TMC seemed set to bag 712, BJP 131, CPI(M) 26, and independents 138.
Out of the 79 gram panchayats here, Trinamool had 64 with a clear majority (compared to 55 in 2018) while others were hung. Kurmi candidates were leading in 100 gram panchayats. Observers say last time the Kurmi vote went to the BJP, but this time they did not support the saffron party.
In Suvendu Adhikari’s constituency, the BJP was ahead in 9 gram panchayats, TMC in 6, and independents in 2.
The Matua votes have also seemingly shifted from the BJP to the TMC this time, say observers.
The Congress was totally wiped out in the 2018 panchayat elections as well as the 2021 assembly polls.
This time, the party has held on to some of the seats in gram panchayats in Malda, Murshidabad, which is significant, say analysts.
Some victims of the 2022 Bogtui massacre contested for the BJP but lost.
Observers say while the TMC has won the polls by a huge margin, the ramifications of the results and the violence for the 2024 Lok Saba elections are uncertain.
BJP insiders say the party will use this as a campaign issue nationally and will also go to court. More than 40 people died in clashes during and ahead of the elections.
Suvendu Adhikari questioned the credibility of the elections and said he spoke to union home minister Amit Shah on the matter. The top leadership is concerned about the well-being of local representatives and workers, he said. The party has also started helpline numbers.
TMC minister Shashi Panja though blamed the opposition for creating problems and said her party won on the plank of development.