The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal has swept the prestigious Kolkata Corporation (KMC) election, winning 134 of the total 144 seats, amidst allegations of intimidation of voters by the party’s supporters.
In terms of vote share, the TMC crossed 70 percent, surpassing what opinion polls had predicted.
Surprisingly, the most significant development in the civic body election—is the Left Front’s emergence as the main Opposition pushing the BJP to the third position.
In terms of seats, BJP won three, while Left Front and Congress won two seats each. But in terms of votes, Left Front secured 12 percent votes while BJP vote share declined to 9 percent.
In the 2021 state assembly elections, TMC was leading in 132 wards, while BJP was leading in 11 wards and Left Front got lead in one ward. In about six months, the composition of the opposition space has changed. While Left Front secured second position in 66 wards, BJP was second in only 47 wards and Congress in 16 wards.
Significantly, the TMC had fielded six MLAs and one MP to contest for the post of councillor. All of them have won from their respective wards by massive margins. For the first time, the TMC managed to win ward 98, which had been electing Left candidates for the past 36 years.
Reacting to the KMC election result, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, “The election was held like a festival, it is a victory of democracy. We are thankful to Ma, Mati, and Manush. I bow my head to the people and we will continue the developmental works with humility and submissiveness. Kolkata will show the way to the rest of the country.”
An astounding victory was in Ward number 66, where Faiz Ahmed Khan won with a whopping margin of over 62,000 votes, mopping up more than 88 percent of the votes polled in the ward.
Similarly in ward number 109, Ananya Banerjee won the seat by more than 37 thousand votes, mopping up more than 89 percent of the votes polled in the ward.
On election day, 19 December, there were complaints of voter intimidation, violence, and rigging. Bombs were hurled near Sealdah’s Taki Boys School, injuring three voters. Even in Beleghata and Khanna area, bombs were hurled. Kolkata police said unidentified miscreants were behind the acts.
In the early hours of 19 December, the residence of the Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal assembly, Suvendu Adhikary was cordoned off by police, even though the house was located in a different district. Strangely, the police didn’t make a statement or give a reason for such an action.
Seven BJP MLAs remained stuck inside the MLAs' hostel on the polling day at Kyd Street as Kolkata police locked the main gate.
After the completion of polling, later at night, Congress candidate from ward 16 of Hatibagan area Ravi Saha was pinned down on the street, his clothes were taken and was brutally assaulted.
Amitava Chakraborty, election agent of Congress candidate Santosh Pathak was assaulted inside a polling station in Ward 45.
In Ward number 23 of Bagbazar area, in a school named Marwari Balika Vidyalaya, a group of people stormed into the polling station, allegedly rigged the EVM, tore apart files and left.
In the Metiabruz area, supporters of independent candidate Rubina Naaz were attacked and one of the persons suffered a head injury.
In Ward number 53 of Taltala area, Congress candidate Akbar Husain’s aide was attacked. Similarly, in Ward 23, CPI(M) candidate Sujata Saha was attacked and was later admitted to Kolkata Medical College.
In most cases, the perpetrators did not appear to be locals, claimed the Opposition. Bengali TV channels reported several instances where a false voter or person who had already voted once, was caught on camera queuing up for a second time.
And all these happened despite deployment of 23,000 police personnel. But on the day of polling, the Kolkata police remained blindsided and barely took any actions against the perpetrators.
It is ironic that the TMC, which accused the BJP of orchestrating mass violence and rampant rigging in the 25 November Tripura civic elections, was now being accused of the same.
When TMC MP and national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee came to cast his vote, he countered the allegations and said, “Tripura and Bengal are as different as hell and heaven when it comes to exercising of votes. In Tripura, we have seen how candidates themselves were not allowed to vote. And here, people are celebrating the festival of democracy freely. I am saying publicly on record that if there is any evidence against any Trinamool worker, we will make sure he is taken to task.”
When reporters asked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee about the violence in the KMC poll, she said, “Somebody cannot contest 144 seats, then they will do drama. It’s better to ignore them. I’m happy the election was peaceful.”
CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty accused the state administration and the poll body of failing to ensure free and fair elections.
“TMC looted and it is unfortunate to see the keepers acting like violators. Today, we all witnessed the mockery of democracy,” he said.
THE DECLINE OF BJP
The BJP has been on a decline after its drubbing in the 2021 assembly election. In the recently held by-elections, the saffron party lost all seven seats to TMC.
Workers, leaders, MLAs and MPs are deserting the party. The BJP’s central leadership, which almost monitored the party's daily activities and called the shots prior to the state election, seem to have washed their hands off now.
Central BJP leaders largely stayed away from the KMC poll campaign this time even after announcing various union ministers as star campaigners. Union ministers like Smriti Irani and Giriraj Singh who were listed as star campaigners, didn’t even turn up.
BJP state leaders also failed the party. There were instances where some candidates of the saffron party didn’t even have the support of workers while campaigning. In one instance, a BJP candidate campaigned alone just with his wife as no one joined them.
While the TMC ran one of the most aggressive campaigns, with chief minister herself holding public meetings and nephew Abhishek conducting multiple road shows, the BJP had a lacklustre election campaign. At the height of the KMC election campaign, the BJP state leadership was staging a protest 80 km away in Singur.
But on the other hand, the saffron party left no stone unturned in dragging the election to the court. BJP moved the Calcutta High Court for deployment of central forces for the poll. The court dismissed it, and the BJP moved the division bench. The division bench dismissed it too. The state BJP then moved the Supreme Court against the division bench order of the high court.