The Trinamool Congress’ sweeping victory in polls to West Bengal’s civic bodies on Tuesday was attributed to chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s politics and the party’s strong arm tactics but the fact remains that its performance was more impressive than many had contemplated.
The ruling party pulverized the opposition in civic bodies in Kolkata and across the state, notching up victories that rewrote the record books.
The win swept aside all talk of the party facing a stiff challenge from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which made inroads in West Bengal during last year’s general election and has been focussing on the state ahead of assembly polls scheduled for 2016.
In the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), Banerjee’s party won 114 of the 144 wards, or almost 80% of the seats, a feat never achieved by any other party.
The maximum wards the Left Front, which ruled the state for 34 years, could ever notch up was 97 in 1990. In 2010, the Trinamool Congress won 95 wards.
The Left Front came a distant second with 15 wards (down from 33 in 2010) and the BJP bagged seven and the Congress five.
The figures from across the state were equally impressive – the Trinamool Congress won 69 of the 91 civic boards that went to the polls, or it routed the opposition in 76% of the municipalities.
The Left bagged only six boards and the Congress five while polls to 11 boards produced a fractured verdict. The BJP could not win a single civic body.
A TMC candidate celebrates after winning the Jalpaiguri municipality election on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)
After the results were announced, a triumphant Banerjee told the media: “What the opposition got is more than enough. They should now clam up. They were not supposed to win a single seat.”
The Trinamool Congress maintained its supremacy despite several of its leaders being behind bars for their alleged involvement in chit fund scams. The Mukul Roy factor seemed to have had no effect and Subharngshu, Roy's son, won in the Kanchrapara civic body.
Some attributed the party’s success to popular backing for its “Maa Mati Manush” policies but the opposition united to say that the ruling party’s “muscle” won the polls and that the results did not necessarily reflect the people’s will.
“Even after such a naked display of force by the ruling party, we have gone up in numbers. We had three wards in the KMC in 2010, it has now gone up to seven,” said Rahul Sinha, president of the state BJP unit, as he tried to highlight the gains for his party.
“We won’t allow this violence in the 2016 assembly polls. The results will be different,” he said.
State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: “Every party contesting knew that the Trinamool would win the polls, but party supremo Mamata Banerjee was skeptical. The way the Trinamool won can in no way be considered a respectful victory.”
The Congress held on to its stronghold of Murshidabad and some parts of Malda and impressed observers by winning more civic bodies and seats in other areas. Though the party is considered a depleted force in the state, it caused a few upsets by winning in Jhalda and Purulia and some wards of the KMC.
While the Left continued to bleed, the Siliguri Municipal Corporation emerged as the only bright spot in its canvas. The Left Front won 23 of the body’s 47 wards, just one short of the 24 required to form the board, but it was assured by the lone independent winner of crucial support.
Polling was held for the KMC on April 18 and for 91 civic bodies on April 25. These polls are crucial as they constitute the last pan-West Bengal electoral exercise before the all-important assembly polls next year.