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Mamata Retains Hold Introspection Time For Opponents

Updated: May 23, 2015 1:40 pm

The ruling party in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress has once again registered a resounding victory in the state civic polls. The TMC, led by state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, retained its hold over the state’s civic bodies. A whopping 114 of the total 144 wards of the Kolkata Municipality went to the TMC. The CPI-M was the second best with just 15 wards, while the BJP and the Congress settled for 7 and 5 respectively and others 3. As far as the rest of the 91 municipal corporations of the state are concerned, the TMC won 70 civic bodies. The CPI-M and the Congress got 5 each, others 12, barring BJP, which has not been able to get a single body and open its register in the state.

More than 70 lakh voters in the state exercised their voting rights during this civic polls which are touted as crucial before the 2016 state assembly elections, since political parties were seeing these polls as a ‘semi-final’ before the state assembly election next year, as the present ruling party is under scanner on all fronts whether it be corruption charges against party leaders aganist the backdrop of Saradha Scam, in party politics (Mamata’s second in command Mukul Roy turned rebel) and emergence of BJP in the state, but everything proved wrong and the people’s verdict went in favour of Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee.

Immediately after the declaration of results Trinmool Congress supremo and the state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took to twitter to dedicate party’s victory “to the people of Bengal”. She also asked party workers to stay away from victory rallies in the wake of Nepal earthquake disaster.

As the Left Front and Bharatiya Janata Party called for a strike across the state on April 30, Mamata continued and tweeted, “CPM and BJP have called a bandh together. They have no ideologies. We appeal to people to defeat the bandh. Let there be progress.”

The elections also witnessed incidents of sporadic violence and rigging killing one and injuring many in various poll-related violence in the state. A police sub-inspector was injured after he was hit by a bullet during a clash allegedly between two political groups soon after the Kolkata civic polls.

The opposition parties—the BJP, Left and the Congress—have blamed the Trinamool Congress for rigging the polls.“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, now it has gone up to seven, we won’t allow this violence in the 2016 assembly polls and the results will be different,” said Rahul Sinha, president of the state BJP unit, as he tried to highlight the gains for his party, but he added that the party also need introspection.

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 Congress won cannot be considered a respectful victory.”

West Bengal Left Front chairman Biman Bose lashed out at the State Election Commission for “keeping mum” on allegations of rampant violence in the run up to the April 25 elections to 91 municipalities and threatened to call a statewide bandh in protest.

The CPI (M) Politburo member also alleged that during the KMC polls there were instances of rigging and other malpractices with more number of votes being cast than the number of voters in a single ward. Bose also raised questions on the funding of Trinamool Congress’ campaign for the municipal elections.

Four Left trade unions including CPM-controlled CITU called a 24-hour general strike in West Bengal on April 30 to protest against violence and vote loot by Trinamool Congress activists in the recently concluded civic elections. INTUC, the trade union arm of the Congress, also supported the strike call. The opposition Left Front also lent support to the strike call by Left trade unions.

This was the first general strike called by the Left trade unions and Left parties in Bengal in four years. The CPM and other Left parties didn’t call any bandh or strike in West Bengal after Mamata Banerjee came to power in May 2011.

CITU leader Shyamal Chakraborty said “People know what the Trinamool Congress had done during the Kolkata municipal corporation (KMC) elections held on April 18 and also during polls in 91 municipalities on April 25. If the ruling party resorts to such violence in a civic election, we can well imagine what they will do next year when assembly elections take place. Naturally, we can’t allow Trinamool Congress to adopt such undemocratic ways to loot votes.

It is high time we urge people to protest against this.”

BJP too called for a strike on the same day against the ruling government and widespread rigging and violence during the civic polls in the state.

Factors which would have played havoc on Trinmool Congress came as a boon for the party. In the aftermath of the general elections and with the triumph of the BJP in the national politics, the presence of BJP is felt in the state for the first time on large scale with widespread membership and other activitie. It was also presumed that the BJP is emerging as the next powerful opposition in the state. But the result of the polls proved it all wrong.

The party which for the first time contested all municipal corporations, fielding 2,090 candidates for 91 municipal corporation has showed a political opportunity for itself in the state, given the rapid retreat of the Left and the Congress, even as the ruling Trinamool Congress battles anti-incumbency. But the BJP has not done that well in the municipal elections in West Bengal. It proves the party needs more time to increase its support base in the state.

However, during the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP’s vote share in the city had moved up two-fold to 24 per cent, higher than the state average of over 17 per cent. Out of 144 wards in the KMC, the BJP was leading in 26 and was in close contest in 31. If the results of the by-elections till February are of any significance, the BJP’s support base has gone up since May 2014. This, coupled with unabated erosion in the Left Front’s vote share, and the alleged involvement of the TMC in the Saradha scam, should have gone in the BJP’s favour, but everything proved wrong.

What Bengal BJP should learn from this polls

As BJP has strong central leadership, a strong state leadership is expected. BJP is taken as an alien party in Bengal. Although the party patriarch Syama Prasad Mookerjee is very much from Bengal, a common Bengali cannot identify much with BJP. Therefore a strong Bengali with strong grip over the length and breadth of Bengal and who can touch the sentiments and mood of people is needed as a leader. Modi fever hasn’t worked this time during the civic polls, which means BJP must involve itself in day-to-day people connect rather than showcasing what Modi has achieved or trying to achieve in the centre. It is the local issues and efforts that counts. People-to-people connect and activities and leaders with vision and farsighted planning are needed in state leadership. Roopa Ganguli and Babul Supriyo may catch the eye balls but what is needed is follow-up, people want to see a strong leadership whom people can rely and trust.

By Joydeep dasgupta from Kolkata

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