THE RULING Trinamool Congress (TMC) looked set to sweep the three-tier panchayat polls in the state as the results poured in on Thursday. The BJP emerged a distant second in most districts of the state, leaving the CPI(M) and Congress behind.
Of the 31,812 gram panchayat seats where polls were held, TMC had won 20,441 seats (64.2 per cent) and was leading in 315 seats till 9.30 pm. The BJP emerged second, winning 5,465 seats (17.1 per cent) and leading in 28 seats. While independent candidates won 1,741 seats, the CPI(M) won 1,415 seats and was leading in 13 seats, and the Congress got 993 seats.
Of the 6,125 panchayat samiti seats which went to polls, TMC won 3,598 seats (58.7 per cent) and was leading in 299 seats. The BJP was second, winning 460 seats (7.5 per cent) and leading in 28, followed by the CPI(M) with 63 seats and leading in 7 seats. Independent candidates won 77 seats and were leading in two seats.
Of the 621 zilla parishad seats, TMC won 159 seats (25.6 per cent) and was leading in 168 seats. While the BJP was leading in five seats, the CPI(M) was leading in only one seat and independent candidates were leading in two seats.
According to the State Election Commission (SEC), counting of votes will continue till Thursday midnight and the results will be clear on Friday.
The panchayat polls on Monday were marred by widespread violence, resulting in the death of 14 people. Polling was held in only 66 per cent of the total seats, as the TMC won 34 per cent of the seats uncontested. Of the 48,650 seats in 3,358 gram panchayats, 16,814 were uncontested; 3,059 of the 9,217 seats in 341 panchayat samitis were uncontested; 203 of the 825 seats in 20 zilla parishads were uncontested.
“The CPI(M), Congress, BJP and Maoists came together and contested the elections against the TMC. The TMC has still won 90 per cent of the seats. The credit for this goes to the people. There were some sporadic incidents of violence, and ruling party workers were killed in most of these cases. Of the 13 people who were killed, 10 were from the TMC. The CPI(M) and BJP together killed them. FIRs have been lodged in each case. Despite the malicious campaign by the opposition, we have won the elections,” Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee said.
Criticising Prime Minister Narenda Modi for targeting the TMC on the violence, she said: “Even the Prime Minister has spoken about the violence. We did not expect it. A chief minister should not speak against the prime minister as there are constitutional limitations. He spoke against us, but we did not retaliate. He has spoken because some BJP leaders have said so, without checking facts… Today, if a BJP worker says something about us, the Union Home Ministry asks us to clarify. The central government cannot just favour a particular party. This trend is crossing all limits,” she said.
“The people of the state have voted for development and the result was expected,” said TMC leader Sabyasachi Dutta.
“It is clear from the results that we are still in the fight. BJP has come second, which is no surprise for us. Had the election been free and fair, we would have performed better,” said West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh.
“This (the results) was meant to be, as the election had turned into a farce. We are apprehending a similar situation in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as well,” said West Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury.
Meanwhile, TMC leader Arabul Islam, who was arrested after a youth was killed in Bhangar days before the rural polls were held, has won a panchayat samiti seat from the area. His son, Hakimul Islam, also won a panchayat samiti seat in North Gazipur area of Bhangar.
Five of the eight independent candidates, who were backed by the Jomi, Jibika, Poribesh O Bastutantra Raksha Committee (JJPOBRC) — an umbrella organisation of 16 villages that is protesting against the construction of a power plant in Bhangar — have won gram panchayat seats in Polerhat II in South 24 Parganas. They had filed their nominations via WhatsApp, claiming that armed miscreants had stopped them from filing their nomination papers.
Sporadic incidents of violence were reported as the results were declared on Thursday. A clash between TMC and BJP workers broke out in Birbhum district, after the latter won the Mallarpur gram panchayat. Police resorted to lathicharge to bring the situation under control.
At Krishnaganj in Nadia district, a TMC worker was reportedly caught rigging the counting process. The counting of the booth was stopped following the incident. Violence also broke out at Chopra in North Dinajpur district, where two persons suffered gunshot injuries.
Repoll was held in 572 seats across 19 districts on Wednesday.