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Mamata’s TMC wins record 20,000 panchayat seats without contest in Bengal

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) won hundreds of seats in the three-tier panchayat elections in West Bengal uncontested setting a record for winning in elections without a contest.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) won hundreds of seats in the three-tier panchayat elections in West Bengal uncontested, setting a record of sorts for winning most elections without a contest.

Nearly 20,000 seats, about 34 per cent of the total, were won by the TMC candidates in the fray before a single vote could be cast. The previous high was 11 per cent in 2003 during the Left Front rule.

TMC was the only party to have fielded candidates in all of the seats in the rural body polls.

The State Election Commission (SEC) released the list of uncontested seats on 29 April, a day after the deadline for withdrawal of candidates expired.

According to SEC data, 16,814 seats of the 48,650 seats in gram panchayats remained uncontested. In panchayat samitis, 3,059 of the 9,217 seats remained uncontested. Further, 203 of 825 seats in 20 zilla parishads were uncontested.

This means the 14 May elections will be fought for the remaining 38,616 seats.

The party leadership termed the victory in the uncontested seats a victory of the masses.

Firhad Hakim, Minister for Urban Development and the Minister for Municipal Affairs in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet, said people were very happy with the developmental work done by the TMC.

Opposition parties are, however, not happy. They have accused the TMC of perpetuating violence and unleash an “unprecedented reign of terror”.

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh alleged that it was because of TMC’s violence that opposition candidates could “neither file nominations nor were they allowed to contest”.

“Our candidates were threatened with dire consequences if they did not withdraw, so some of them had to give in,” he said.

Sujan Chakraborty, a senior CPI(M) leader, too alleged that the TMC had turned the polls into a “farce”. The party had previously carried out a protest march accusing TMC of “throttling democracy” and unleashing a “reign of terror”.

The opposition parties have claimed that the ruling party has been preventing their candidates from filing nominations for the polls.

Meanwhile, the BJP top brass in Delhi reportedly believes that certain wrong decisions and erroneous strategies have prevented the spread of the saffron party in the state even though there is practically no challenge from a weakened CPI(M) and Congress.

The party believes that the four BJP parliamentarians from the state – SS Ahluwalia, George Baker, Babul Supriyo and Rupa Ganguly – do not have the same kind of connect with the party workers as the TMC leaders have.

The BJP made Mukul Roy, the rebel TMC leader who switched to the saffron party in November 2017, the convener of the Panchayat panel of the party but his recommendations were not approved. His ‘cold war’ with Ghosh is also being cited as a reason behind the failure of the party to take on the ruling TMC.

The TMC fielded more nominations than the number of seats.

The party led by the West Bengal CM had filed 1,000 nominations for the zilla parishads, followed by the BJP with 782, CPI(M) with 537 and the Congress with 407. In panchayat samitis, the TMC had filed 12,590 nominations, the BJP 6,149, the CPI(M) 4,400 and the Congress 1,740.

For the gram panchayats, the TMC filed 58,978 nominations, the BJP 27,935, the CPI(M) 17,319 and the Congress 7,313.

All three parties withdrew the names of many candidates before the end of deadline.

There are 3,358 gram panchayats, 341 panchayat samitis and 20 zilla parishads in West Bengal.