KOLKATA: The Trinamool Congress has gained an unprecedented stranglehold on Bengal's three-tier village administrative system, as it gained 95 per cent of zilla parishad seats, 90 per cent of panchayat samiti seats, and 73 per cent of gram panchayat seats that went for polling and for which results were declared last week. Over a third of the seats didn't have any contest and the Calcutta High Court stayed announcement of those results in a directive earlier. Officials believe if and when those results are announced, Trinamool's victory percentage may improve as most of the “walkover winners”.
However, in a clear indication of growing dissent against Mamata Banerjee's TMC, the BJP made significant inroads into villages across Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Jhargran, Purulia and parts of West Midnapore and even Birbhum, which stood out for the large number of uncontested seats, where saffron party candidates won more than 20 per cent gram panchayats that went to vote. Banerjee meanwhile, dedicated her massive victory to the “people of Bengal and martyrs' families”. The opposition however, called the 2018 panchayat election “a farce”.
CPM and the Congress stood virtually decimated even in their strongholds, finishing the race as fringe players fighting for third and fourth places, which is a firming up of the trend seen in August 2017 civic polls. Trinamool successfully took down Congress in Murshidabad, and took a massive lead in Malda and North Dinajpur. It also maintained its stranglehold over the districts around Kolkata, North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly — though its juggernaut did stumble in pockets, like Singur in Hooghly and Bhangar in South 24-Parganas. BJP increased it tally from eight gram panchayat seats to 28 in Hooghly’s Singur as prominent land stir leader Naba Kumar Ghosh lost. In Bhangar’s Kashipur, five of the nine Independent (Naxal-backed Save Live Livelihood Environment Protection Committee) candidates, who created electoral history by filing their nomination on WhatsApp, won. But their bete noire, Trinamool strongman Arabul Islam, now in police custody, won the zilla parishad seat; his family members, too, won panchayat samity seats.