The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Red juggernaut rolls on
- Trinamul slips further, Cong builds on zilla parishad gains

Calcutta, May 14: The Left Front continued sweeping the sixth panchayat elections, retaining power in the middle-level panchayat samities and the grassroots gram panchayats with a thumping majority. Yesterday, it had bagged almost all the zilla parishads.

On the second day of counting, the Opposition’s fate too remained unchanged: the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine continued to lose ground while there were clear indications of a resuscitation of the Congress.

In the 329 panchayat samities, the Front has achieved an absolute majority by winning 6,248 of the total 8,500 seats. In the lowest tier, the CPM has retained power in over two-thirds of the gram panchayats. The Front had snapped up over 28,000 of the total 49,114 seats till late this evening.

“In spite of the terror unleashed by the Opposition parties, the people voted for the Front. The electorate of rural Bengal has refused the Trinamul-BJP combine. We will, however, analyse the poll results to find out our weaknesses,” said state CPM secretary Anil Biswas.

Even though the Front, especially the CPM, suffered a setback by losing two important zilla parishads in Malda and Murshidabad to the Opposition and got fewer seats in the top tier than in 1998, the party has won more seats in the two lower tiers.

The CPM has pushed up its panchayat samity seats tally from 5,160 in 1998 to 6,248 this year. Similarly, its winnings in the gram panchayat have gone up by over five per cent.

In North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly, the CPM has performed extraordinarily. In the middle tier in North 24-Parganas, the CPM has won 371 seats compared to 291 last time. The CPM has increased its tally by over 300 seats compared to the 1998 poll in the gram panchayats.

Saifuddin Chowdhury’s Party for Democratic Socialism secured two panchayat samity seats in the unlikeliest of places, Purulia, but sank without a trace in South 24-Parganas where it was believed to be enjoying popular support.

It is apparent from the results that the Trinamul Congress has cut a sorry figure in all the three tiers. Trinamul has virtually been wiped out in North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and West Midnapore. In most cases, the Congress appeared to have gained a lot of ground.

Trinamul has won 819 panchayat samity seats against 1,439 in 1998. In the lower tier, too, its seats have come down drastically. Trinamul won 15 zilla parishad seats this year against 38 last time.

An undeterred Mamata Banerjee maintained that her party’s dismal performance was due to the CPM’s “terror tactic”. “The just concluded panchayat poll was a farce because the election was controlled by the party cadre and not by the administration. Or else how could they predict results'” said Mamata.

Contesting her observation, Biswas said it is not difficult for a party which has a mass base to predict poll results.

The Congress, which has snatched two zilla parishads from the CPM, also increased its seats in the top tier from 32 in 1998 to 68. The resurgent party bagged 1,064 panchayat samity seats this time against 831 earlier.

Similarly, in the gram panchayat category, the Congress has been able to increase its tally by over 1,000 seats this time.

“We have done better this time because we maintained constant touch with the people. We also did well where we have been able to resist the terror tactic of the CPM,” said Somen Mitra, former state Congress chief.

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