Kolkata/Delhi: Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TC) swept local body elections in Kolkata, drubbing the Left Front and putting her on course to end the 33-year-long reign of the communists in West Bengal.
“TC now seems virtually unstoppable in West Bengal and the Left has to make some crucial decisions,” said Subrata Mukherjee, professor of political science at Delhi University (DU). “It has to strive to keep the Left coalition intact, and also decide if it wants to go to the next election” with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as chief minister.
Goal in sight: Mamata Banerjee’s momentum seems unstoppable a year before West Bengal state elections. Samir Jana/HT
The Trinamool won in 95 of the 141 wards of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, gaining 50 from last time. The Congress won in 10 wards, the Bharatiya Janata Party in three and the Left Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, in 33, down from 75 in 2005.
“After these results, I am sure the Congress and the Trinamool are going to fight next year’s assembly elections together,” said Abhirup Sarkar, political commentator and professor of economics at Kolkata’s Indian Statistical Institute.
The results showed that the Left’s slide from popularity continued unabated a year after its defeat in the general election. Of the total 81 civic bodies for which polls were held, the Trinamool won 28, the Left Front in 17 (against 54 in 2005) and the Congress in seven.
The absence of a partnership between TC and the Congress party, allies at the Central level, prevented a greater sweep. They will need to join hands to gather enough strength to form the board.
The Congress “state unit overestimated its strength and thought it could expand its base by fighting alone”, said DU’s Mukherjee. “However, the Congress has no organizational base and Mamata is the one seen as the catalyst of the anti-CPM wave.” That may persuade the Congress to ally with Banerjee for next year’s state elections.
Banerjee said she has “faith in the Congress leadership. That’s why I support the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government”.
The CPM said the results were worse than expected. “The momentum gained by Trinamool then is continuing,” said senior CPM politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai. “We have to learn lessons from this defeat and strategize in order to make immediate improvements.”