Kolkata:The Trinamool Congress swept the panchayat election in West Bengal, but independent and opposition candidates held out in isolated pockets such as Purulia and Jhargram districts—an indication that the ruling party is faced with anti-incumbency in certain corners of the state.
Following an election marred by unprecedented violence and more than two dozen killings, the Trinamool Congress is set to form the zilla parishad boards in all 20 districts. The votes were counted on Thursday and full results across three tiers would emerge well past press time.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has emerged as the main opposition party in the state over the past few years, has pulled off a coup of sorts in Purulia by winning 633 gram panchayat seats compared with 780 by the Trinamool Congress.
In Jhargram, too, the BJP secured 325 gram panchayat seats as against 370 won by the Trinamool Congress. In almost all districts, the BJP has emerged second after the Trinamool Congress. “The BJP is a distant second, but clearly a very distinct one," said Prasenjit Bose, an economist and a social activist.
“We had not expected such an overwhelming result in the western districts of Purulia and Jhargram," said Sayantan Basu, state general secretary of the BJP. However, results in the northern districts were a disappointment for the party, he said.
The BJP, he said, had also done well in West Midnapore, Jalpaiguri and Maldah districts. “Tribal people of the state have voted against the atrocities of the Trinamool Congress," said Basu.
Churamani Mahato, a Trinamool Congress legislator and a minister from Jhargram, admitted that the BJP had made unexpected inroads into his constituency. People were unmoved by the Trinamool Congress story of development, he said, adding that the party will work to regain lost ground.
For independent candidates, the most remarkable results came from Singur and Bhangar. As many as 26 independent candidates won in Singur, where the aborted small car factory is still a simmering issue, many of them dissidents who distanced themselves from the Trinamool Congress and took on their former political bosses.
The Left Front won in 16 and the BJP in 28 gram panchayat seats. The Trinamool Congress claimed at least 170 gram panchayat seats in Singur.
In Bhangar in the suburbs of Kolkata, where an ultra-Left resistance group filed nominations through electronic messaging with the endorsement of Calcutta High Court, independent candidates pulled off six victories in the 10 seats. The resistance group, which came together to oppose a power substation, fought the election for the first time, and successfully backed a Congress candidate, too, in the area.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Thursday that the BJP, Left Front and even the ultra Left radicals had come together for the first time to jointly take on the Trinamool Congress. Even so, her party was winning in almost 90% of the seats, which itself spoke of the approval of the people, she added.
Banerjee announced that the state will provide monetary compensation to the families of those killed in clashes over the panchayat election, including polling official Rajkumar Ray, who went missing from a polling booth in Raigunj and was later found killed near train tracks.