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Posted at: May 17, 2018, 11:01 AM; last updated: May 17, 2018, 10:19 PM (IST)

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

West Bengal panchayat polls: TMC races ahead, BJP main rival
Police seized 40 mobile phones from a counting centre set up at Jalpaiguri''s Polytechnic Institute. ANI

Kolkata, May 17

The ruling Trinamool Congress on Thursday headed for a massive victory in West Bengal’s rural polls, bagging 19,394 seats in gram panchayats, while the BJP emerged as its main rival, though with a tally that was far lower than that of the TMC, according to results declared till the evening.

State Election Commission (SEC) sources said the Trinamool was ahead in another 560 gram panchayat seats for which counting was in progress.

The BJP had won 5,050 seats and was leading in 55 seats, the sources said.

This is the first time in many years that the BJP has been elected to the gram panchayat level in every district of the state. The BJP had made its presence felt in rural polls in the districts after the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition.

The CPI(M) slipped to the third position from the second place it occupied the last time panchayat polls were held.

It won 1,306 gram panchayats and was ahead in another 27, the sources said.

The Congress emerged fourth among the political parties by winning 918 seats and leading in 29 seats — a score lower than that of independents who won 1,614 gram panchayat seats and were leading in 39 seats.

A jubilant TMC said the result would boost the party ahead of next year’s general election as the rural poll was the last major electoral event in the state before 2019.

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

The TMC outraced the others in panchayat samiti seats, too, winning 560 of them so far and leading in another 350. The BJP won 24 seats and was leading in 16.

The CPI(M) won seven seats and was leading in six, while the Congress could grab just one seat and was leading in one, the SEC sources said.

In zilla parishads, the TMC won 55 seats, with a complete sweep in Burdwan West district, and was leading in 30 seats.

The other political parties were yet to open their account.

In Purulia, the TMC and BJP had a close fight in the gram panchayats, winning 748 and 626 seats respectively till 6 pm today. The Congress and the CPI(M) bagged 147 and 144 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 Malda, a traditional Congress stronghold like Murshidabad, the TMC won 973 gram panchayat seats, the BJP 502, the Congress 359 and CPI(M) 101.

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 1,362 gram panchayat seats, the BJP 508, the CPI(M) 148 and the Congress 54 seats.

In South 24 Parganas, the TMC bagged 1,916  gram panchayat seats, followed by BJP with 351, CPI(M) with 144 and the Congress with 33.

In East Midnapore, the TMC won 1,969 gram panchayat seats, the BJP 177, the CPI(M) 134 and the Congress 15 seats.

The three-tier panchayat poll was held in 621 zilla parishad, 6,123 panchayat samiti and 31,802 gram panchayat seats in 20 West Bengal districts on May 14.

The counting of votes began at 8 am today amid tight security.

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

The BJP said had the elections been free and fair the party would have won 50 per cent of the seats.

“Despite so much of 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. — PTI

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