Bengal Panchayat Election: TMC Sweeps Violence-Marred Bengal Panchayat Polls, BJP Distant Second

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According to the Bengal Panchayat Elections Results as of late at night, at the panchayat samiti level – the second tier – the TMC’s dominance was even greater. Of the total 9,728 seats, trends in 6,006 were announced till 2 am. Of them, the TMC was ahead in 4,776 (4262 won, 514 leading) seats.

Bengal Panchayat Election: TMC Sweeps Violence-Marred Bengal Panchayat Polls, BJP Distant Second
Bengal Panchayat Election: TMC Sweeps Violence-Marred Bengal Panchayat Polls, BJP Distant Second

Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) retained its dominance in state politics by winning more than two-thirds of the three-tier panchayat seats in an election that was marred by pre-poll and poll-day violence, claiming 18 lives on the polling day itself.  The BJP came a distant second, while the Left came third and the Congress fourth. 

At the lowest tier, the Gram Panchayat level, of the total 63,222 seats, trends in 51,268 were announced till 2 am. Of them, the TMC was ahead in 33,767 (32,629 won and 1,138 leading). This was 65.86% of the seats where trends were announced. 

The BJP’s share stood at 18% (8,926 won and 284 leading), while the CPI(M)’s stood at 5.66% (2,733 won and 173 leading) and the Congress’ at 4.76% (2,341 won and 103 leading). Independents, who are mostly disgruntled TMC workers, were ahead in nearly 2,000 seats. 

At the panchayat samiti level – the second tier – the TMC’s dominance was even greater. Of the total 9,728 seats, trends in 6,006 were announced till 2 am. Of them, the TMC was ahead in 4,776 (4262 won, 514 leading) seats. This made up 79.52% of the seats where trends were announced. The BJP’s share of 686 seats (won in 555 and leading in 131) made up only 11.42%, while the Left’s share stood at 2.5% (112 won, 35 leading) and the Congress’ at 2.4% (129 won, 15 leading). 

In the highest tier, the Zilla Parishad, trends in 592 of total 928 seats were declared as of 3 am. The TMC had either won or was leading in 557, with BJP leading or winning 23, the CPI(M) in 4, and the Congress in 6 seats.

The BJP’s performance was rather upsetting, given that the party won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and one-quarter of the state’s 294 assembly seats in 2021. This happened despite the series of corruption charges that the TMC got embroiled in since Mamata Banerjee’s historic return to power in 2021 for a third consecutive term — the biggest of them being the massive school recruitment scam, one of an unprecedented level in the state’s history. Several other leaders are facing probes in other alleged scams. 

“It is clear that the people have rejected the malicious campaign of the BJP-Left-Congress combine,” TMC all-India general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said after the trends became clear. 

In the 2018 panchayat election infamous for unprecedented pre-poll and poll-day violence, the TMC had won 38,118 or 78% of the total 48,636 Gram Panchayat seats, of which a whopping 16,814 seats saw uncontested victories. At the panchayat samiti level, the TMC won 8,062 or 87.5% of the total 9,214 seats. Of them, 3,059 were uncontested victories. At the Zilla Parishad level, they won 793 or 96% of the total 824 seats, and 203 of them came uncontested.

However, the party’s massive setback in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, when their tally came down from 34 to 22 seats, was largely attributed to people’s anger against the party for turning the panchayat elections into a mockery. The TMC leadership was cautious this time to not repeat the antics of 2018. Abhishek Banerjee had introduced internal polling to select candidates in a bid to screen muscle flexors and unpopular faces. 

Banerjee Jr kept repeatedly telling that the party’s goal was to ensure a peaceful panchayat election. One of the reflections of the party’s changed approach was that the number of uncontested victories came down sharply – of the 63,229 panchayat seats, 8,002 or 12% were won uncontested, of the 9,730 panchayat samiti seats, 991 or 10% were won uncontested and of the 928 zilla parishad seats, only 16 were won without a contest. 

This, nevertheless, could not prevent violence both during the campaign phase and on the polling day. Even though the majority of those killed belonged to the TMC, which is why the TMC blamed the opposition parties for violence, it was the TMC workers who were seen involved in most of the incidents of violence and intimidation. 

One of the main theatres of violence was Murshidabad and the results show why it was so – the TMC’s fear of losing Muslim votes to the Congress-Left combine was not without a basis.  

Micro Trends and the Larger Picture  

The Left and the Congress’s improved performance in several pockets – after the washout in the 2021 assembly election – has the potential to turn the 2024 Lok Sabha election contest in multiple seats into triangular ones. 

Despite the negligible share of the Left and the Congress’ tally, what’s worrying for the TMC is that the lion’s share of them have come from the Muslim-majority districts of Malda and Murshidabad that cumulatively have five of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. Currently, the TMC and the Congress have two each, while the BJP holds one. However, buoyed by the 2021 assembly election sweep of these districts, the TMC has targeted winning all these seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. 

The Congress’ performance in these districts, however, is set to cause them unease. Of the 2,475 seats in the state in which the Congress was ahead till 2.30 am, 1,854 or 75% came from the Muslim-majority districts of Murshidabad, Malda, and Uttar Dinajpur – 1,067 from Murshidabad, 609 from Malda and 178 from Uttar Dinajpur. Of the 2,921 Gram Panchayat seats in which the CPI(M) was ahead at 2.30 am, 767 or 26% came from these districts – 509 from Murshidabad, 181 from Malda, and 77 from Uttar Dinajpur. 

Of the 129 panchayat samiti seats where the Congress was ahead till 2 am, 75 came from Murshidabad and another 39 from Malda. In both districts, the Congress emerged as the TMC’s principal challenger. 

In Murshidabad, a district with a 67% Muslim population and three Lok Sabha seats, trends of 5,019 of 5,591 seats were declared till 2.30 am. Of them, the TMC was ahead in 2,704 or 53.87%, the Congress was ahead in 1,067 or 21.25%, the CPI(M) in 509 or 10.14% seats, and the BJP in 503 or 10% seats.

“A combined 31.4% vote share for the Congress and the Left is no comforting news for us, as any further rise in this share during the Lok Sabha election can play spoilsport in at least one Lok Sabha seat in the district. Since they have got momentum, a further rise cannot be ruled out,” said a TMC MLA from the district, who did not want to be named.

In Malda, a district with a 51% Muslim population and two Lok Sabha seats, trends in 2,800 of 3,186 seats were announced by 2.30 am. Of them, the TMC was ahead in 1,356 or 48.42% seats, while the Congress was ahead in 609 or 21.75% seats, the BJP in 523 or 18.67% seats, and the CPI(M) in 181 or 6.46% seats. A combined 28% vote share of the Left and the Congress is similarly indicating a three-corner election in this district also. 

This trend was consistent with what was seen in the recent Sagardighi assembly by-election, in which the Left-backed Congress candidate shook the TMC by wresting the seat from the ruling party. Even though the Congress MLA switched over to the TMC in less than three months, the Congress’ strong presence in the rural polls is likely to continue to worry the TMC. 

If the performance of the Left and the Congress in Malda and Murshidabad is a cause of concern for the TMC, the Left’s improved results in the districts of Nadia, Hooghly, Purba Bardhaman and Paschim Bardhaman is a matter for the BJP to worry. 

Take the case of Nadia district, where the BJP and TMC won one each Lok Sabha seat in 2019. In 2021, in a similar bipolar contest, the TMC won 44.4% vote share and 8 of 17 seats, while the BJP won 44% vote share and 9 seats. The Left-Congress alliance together polled only 6.4% votes. 

However, in the rural polls, trends were announced in 3,649 of 4,011 seats till 2.30 am. Of them, the TMC was ahead in 1,883 or 51.8% seats, while the BJP was ahead in 1163 or 31.87% seats, the Left was ahead in 386 (10.6%) and the Congress in 118 (3.23%) seats. Since the rise in Left-Congress share appears to have come at the cost of the BJP, the saffron party’s 2024 challenge in the district is likely to get tougher. 

In both West Bardhaman and East Bardhaman, the Left came ahead of the BJP, though a distant second to the TMC in the rural polls. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP won both seats from West Bardhaman district – Asansol and Bardhaman-Durgapur, even though they lost Asansol in a by-election in 2021. The Left surging ahead of the BJP would likely dent the BJP’s prospects in this district in the coming Lok Sabha elections, a senior BJP leader from the state said, requesting anonymity. 

In Hooghly, trends in 3,467 of 3,879 Gram Panchayat seats were announced till 3 am. Of them, the TMC was leading in 2,634 or 76% of seats, the BJP in 510 (14.7%), and the CPI(M) in 210 (6%) seats. In the 2019 election, the BJP won one of the district’s three seats and lost another by a slender margin. 

Among senior BJP leaders, only the leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari managed to retain his stronghold of Purba Medinipur district – which gave the BJP its best performance. Trends in 3841 of 4,290 seats were announced till 3 am. Of them, the TMC was ahead in 2116 or 55% of seats, and the BJP in 1,454 or 37.85% of seats. At the panchayat samiti level, the BJP was ahead in 35.4% of seats where trends were announced. 

This district with two Lok Sabha seats is crucial – as both the seats are represented by Adhikari’s family, winning on TMC tickets in 2019. However, the MPs have sided with the BJP since Adhikari’s switch from TMC to BJP in 2020.  

In Cooch Behar, the district of junior home minister Nishith Pramanik, of the 2,256 gram panchayat seats where trends were announced till 3 am the BJP was ahead in only 587 or 26% seats and 21% of panchayat samiti seats. In BJP state unit president Sukanta Majumdar’s district, Dakshin Dinajpur, the BJP was ahead in 23% of gram panchayat seats and 18% of panchayat samiti seats.  

As of 3 am, 15.5% of the total gram panchayat seats, 25% of the panchayat samiti seats, and 52% of the zilla parishad seats where the BJP was ahead in the state were from the district of Purba Medinipur alone. 

If any BJP leader is going to score brownie points from the central leadership with panchayat election performance, it is going to be Adhikari, a former TMC heavyweight who emerged as a giant killer by defeating Mamata Banerjee from his home turf of Nandigram in the 2021 assembly election.  


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