West Bengal panchayat polls: TMC races ahead, BJP main rival

Kolkata, West Bengal, IndiaUpdated: May 18, 2018, 08:24 AM IST

Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee. Photograph:(Zee News Network)

The ruling Trinamool Congress is headed for a massive victory in West Bengal's rural polls, bagging 20,848 seats in the three-tier polls, while the BJP emerged as its main rival, according to the results declared till 1 am.

State Election Commission (SEC) sources said the TMC was ahead in another 148 gram panchayat seats for which counting was in progress.

The BJP has won 5,636 seats and is leading in 21 seats, they said.

According to a senior state BJP leader, it was the first time in last 10 years that the party had been elected to the gram panchayat level in every district of the state.

The CPI(M) slipped to the third position from the second place it had occupied in the last panchayat polls in 2013. It won 1,461 gram panchayat seats and was ahead in another 10, the sources said.

The Congress is at the fourth position by winning 1,033 seats and leading in 10 - a score lower than that of even Independents, who won 1,794 gram panchayat seats and were leading in 18 seats.

A jubilant TMC said the result would boost the party ahead of next year's Lok Sabha election as the rural poll was the last major electoral event in the state before it.

The BJP said the result in the panchayat polls, which saw its emergence as the main challenger to the ruling TMC in Bengal, would act as a morale booster for the party's rank and file.

The TMC outraced others in panchayat Samiti seats too by winning 4,358 of them so far and leading in another 142. The BJP won 631 seats and was leading in 22.

The CPI(M) won 92 seats and was leading in three, while the Congress won 106 seats and was leading in five, the SEC sources said.

The Independents have won 94 panchayat Samiti seats, they said.

The TMC continued to maintain its dominance in Zilla Parishad, where it won 318 seats, with a complete sweep in Burdwan West district, and was leading in 130 seats across the state.

The BJP and the CPI(M) were leading in 10 and two seats each.

In Purulia, the TMC and BJP had a close fight in the gram panchayats, winning 836 and 644 seats, respectively. The Congress and the CPI(M) bagged 154 and 150 seats, respectively, the sources said.

In Jhargram too, the TMC and the BJP were engaged in a close battle for the gram panchayat seats, winning 372 and 329 seats respectively. The CPI(M) trailed far behind with 13 seats and the Congress was yet to open its account.

In the traditional Congress stronghold of Malda, the TMC won 973 gram panchayat seats, the BJP 502, the Congress 359 and CPI(M) 101 seats.

The TMC bagged 918 seats, followed by the Congress with 359 seats in Murshidabad. The CPI(M) and the BJP bagged 111 and 54 seats, respectively in the district, the SEC said.

In Nadia, another border district like Murshidabad and Malda, the TMC won 1,612 gram panchayat seats, the BJP 637, the CPI(M) 177 and the Congress 60 seats.

In East Midnapore, the TMC won 2,033 gram panchayat seats, the BJP 188, the CPI(M) 135 and the Congress 15 seats

In Jalpaiguri, the TMC won 806 gram panchayat seats, the BJP 308, the CPI(M) 51 and the Congress 20 seats

In South 24 Parganas, the TMC bagged 2,105 gram panchayat seats, followed by BJP with 404, CPI(M) with 161 and the Congress with 34.

TMC leader Arabul Islam, who was arrested on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's directive last week after the murder of an Independent candidate at Bhangar of South 24-Parganas and is presently in jail, has won the panchayat samiti seat from the area.

Some incidents of violence were reported from some of the counting centers of the state where miscreants allegedly ran away with ballot boxes.

"We have taken appropriate action in all the cases," said a SEC official.

The panchayat poll was held in 621 Zila Parishad, 6,123 panchayat Samiti and 31,802 gram panchayat seats in 20 West Bengal districts on May 14.

Of the total 48,650 seats in gram panchayats, 16,814 went uncontested. There was also no contest for 3,059 of the 9,217 panchayat Samiti seats and in 203 of the 825 Zila Parishad seats.

"Despite so much violence, we have won more than 5,000 seats in GP (gram panchayat). Had the elections been free and fair, we would have won 50 per cent seats at all the three levels of the panchayat," state BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu said.

Widespread violence during the polls claimed at least 12 lives and left 43 injured. The CPI(M) and the Congress dubbed the election a "farce".

The TMC, on the other hand, said the people of Bengal had voted in favour of development ushered in by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

"People have voted in favour of development and have defeated the forces who were spreading canards against our state," TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said. 

The counting of votes which began at 8 am on May 17 was still on till reports last came in.