| CPM supporters sprinkle aabir on a victorious Baidyabati municipality candidate in Hooghly. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, May 25: The Left Front today swept the municipal polls winning 48 out of 79 civic bodies, going 11 up on its 2000 performance.
The Congress, with which the Left have an alliance at the Centre, ended up a distant second, while Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress conceded several strongholds in the two 24-Parganas to go nine down from last time.
'We anticipated this success,' said Anil Biswas, the state CPM secretary. 'Our impression is that Mamata's Trinamul is yielding ground to the Congress as the main Opposition.'
The formation of boards in as many as 13 municipalities appeared uncertain as no political party or pre-poll alliance had got the mandate to stake claim. In most, the boards can be formed if the Congress forges a post-poll alliance with Trinamul and its ally, the BJP.
Among such municipalities are Tamluk, Beldanga, Murshidabad, Purulia, Basirhat, Baduria, Bongaon, Ramjivanpur, Suri, Rampurhat, and Baruipur and Bhadreswar.
'We will not do anything unethical to take control of the hung municipalities and we hope the Congress will not forge links with Trinamul and the BJP to get hold of them,' Biswas said.
Going by the experience of the last municipal elections, the Left tally may further go up if certain successful Independents in the hung municipalities decide to sign up with the front.
State Congress general secretary Manas Bhuniya said tonight the party had an 'open mind' on a tie-up with Trinamul to keep the front at bay. 'Our local leaders will take the decision and we have no control on them,' he said.
In private, CPM leaders at the Alimuddin Street headquarters this evening interpreted the Congress's surging ahead of Trinamul as a pointer to things to come in the 2006 Assembly elections.
But the Congress lost Old Malda after a decade. Its nominees had failed to submit to the returning officer certificates saying they had been allotted the party symbol. All Congress candidates had to enter the fray as Independents.
The proponents of the mahajot (grand alliance) received a boost when the Congress, thanks to an understanding with Trinamul and the BJP, retained the board at Englishbazar in Malda. But Krishnendu Chowdhury, the outgoing chairman of the municipality, was defeated by about 500 votes by a CPM-backed Independent.
'It was a great blow to our party in Old Malda but in Englishbazar, it was clearly an anti-Left verdict,' said veteran Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury.
The CPM-led front made substantial gains in Murshidabad and Malda, known Congress citadels, and the industrial belts of Hooghly and North 24-Parganas. It wrested Jangipur, Dhulian and Azimgunj-Ziagunj municipalities from the Congress in Murshidabad, primarily because of infighting in the rival ranks. The Congress had routed the front in the district last year winning all three Lok Sabha seats.
The Congress suffered its most humiliating defeat in Kandi municipality where 10 Independents backed by the party MP from Behrampore, Adhir Chowdhury, wrested the board by defeating the Congress nominees. Adhir blamed the party brass for the debacle.
At Mirik in Darjeeling, the GNLF retained the municipality by bagging all nine seats.