Hours before the West Bengal State Election Commission issued a notification extending by a day the last date for filing nomination papers for the panchayat polls, Trinamool Congress candidates were declared “elected unopposed” from 41 of 42 seats in the Birbhum zilla parishad. The ruling party also won “unopposed” 14 of 19 panchayat samitis in Birbhum — panchayat elections are to be held in the state on May 1, 3 and 5.
In Kandi in Murshidabad, the TMC won 29 of 30 panchayat samiti seats, again uncontested.
In Bharatpur II, it won all 21 panchayat samit seats. It was the same story in Barwan where it won all 37 panchayat samiti seats.
These drew an angry response from Opposition parties which accused the TMC of “rigging the polls” and reducing it to “a farce” by not letting others contest.
And in his order Monday evening, State Election Commissioner A K Singh noted “whereas information has been received through complaints, deputation etc. that intending candidates and proposers are being obstructed or prevented from making nomination… and whereas… Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has directed the Commission… to consider the grievance once made by any party or/and candidate as the case may be and pass appropriate order/s so that the intending candidates may not be deprived of their chance to contest the panchayat elections… therefore, the Commission… hereby extends the last date for making nomination for one day i.e. on 10.04.2018 from 11 am up to 3 pm”.
BJP’s Birbhum district president Ramkrishna Roy said TMC workers “used threats to stop BJP candidates” from filing nomination papers. “This result is not unexpected. They wanted to win uncontested and that’s why they prevented our candidates from filing nominations. One of our candidates managed to file a nomination for the Rajnagar seat. So, Trinamool won all zilla parishad seats barring one.”
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said, “This victory signifies the culture of bombs and guns, and not of the people. They have terrorised people before the election and now they will claim that development has won.”
CPM MLA Sujan Chakraborty said TMC did not win the rural bodies but “captured” them. “They have simply captured the rural bodies by preventing the Opposition from filing their nominations. There is no credit in winning seats without a contest,” he said.
TMC’s Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal, however, said: “We are surprised to see that the Opposition could not find candidates for the zilla parishad seats. No one prevented them from filing nominations. They did not have the support of the people. That is the reason why they could not find candidates.”
TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said: “The Opposition indulged in violence in Birbhum district. Outsiders entered the village to create trouble. People of the state are not with them. The Opposition does not have organisational strength in the district and that’s why they could not field candidates.”