The results of the three-tier panchayat elections in West Bengal, held on July 8 and 9, have been declared after a long and chaotic counting process that lasted for two days. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has emerged victorious in a landslide victory, bagging over 16,300 seats out of the total 63,229 gram panchayat seats, and all the 22 zilla parishads. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has managed to win only around 3,800 seats, while the Congress and the Left Front have been reduced to a marginal presence.

The panchayat polls, which are seen as a crucial test of popularity and strength ahead of the 2024 assembly elections, were marred by widespread violence, allegations of rigging, ballot box tampering, and booth capturing. At least 19 people were killed and several others injured in clashes between rival groups on the polling day and during the repolling in 696 booths on Monday. The State Election Commission (SEC) had ordered repolling in these booths after receiving complaints of irregularities and malpractices.

The counting of votes, which began on Tuesday morning, was also fraught with tension and chaos, as supporters of various parties thronged the counting centres and indulged in scuffles and arguments. Several incidents of ballot boxes being set on fire or stolen were reported from different districts. The counting process was delayed and disrupted by frequent power cuts, technical glitches, and protests by the losing candidates. The SEC had to deploy central forces and state police personnel at the counting venues to maintain law and order. The counting was finally completed on Wednesday evening, with the TMC claiming a massive mandate from the rural voters.

The TMC has attributed its victory to the development work done by the Mamata Banerjee-led government in the rural areas, especially in terms of providing social welfare schemes, infrastructure facilities, and employment opportunities. The party has also accused the BJP of trying to create communal polarisation and fomenting violence to disrupt the democratic process. The TMC has said that the people of West Bengal have rejected the BJP’s divisive agenda and have reposed their faith in Mamata Banerjee’s leadership.

The BJP, on the other hand, has alleged that the TMC has resorted to intimidation, coercion, and manipulation to win the panchayat polls by hook or by crook. The party has claimed that it has made significant inroads in the rural areas despite facing severe odds and threats from the ruling party. The BJP has also challenged the validity and credibility of the election results, saying that they do not reflect the true will of the people. The party has demanded a re-election under the supervision of a neutral authority.

The Congress and the Left Front, which have been pushed to the margins in West Bengal politics, have also cried foul over the conduct and outcome of the panchayat polls. They have alleged that their candidates and workers were prevented from filing nominations, campaigning, voting, and counting by the TMC and the BJP. They have also blamed each other for their poor performance and lack of coordination.

The panchayat elections in West Bengal have once again exposed the deep-rooted political violence and polarisation that plagues the state. They have also set the stage for a bitter battle between the TMC and the BJP in the upcoming assembly elections, which are likely to be a high-stakes contest between Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi.

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4 thought on “West Bengal Panchayat Election 2023: TMC Sweeps Rural Polls Amid Violence and Controversy”
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