The Telegraph
Tuesday , November 26 , 2013
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If it’s an election, the winner must be…

Calcutta, Nov. 25: The Trinamul Congress juggernaut continues to roll with the party bagging four of the five civic bodies that went to polls.

The Left has been reduced to an insignificant force at the hustings, losing two civic bodies. One of them is the Howrah Municipal Corporation that the Left had held for nearly three decades.

The Left, which had given up the fight before the vote, could not enter double-digits in the total ward tally when results of 143 of the 145 wards were announced.

In eight wards, the once unassailable Left trailed the Congress that managed 36 piggy-backing on Adhir Chowdhury’s Berhampore stronghold. But even in Berhampore, the Trinamul vote share has gone up from 2.8 per cent in 2008 to 27.8 per cent now.

Compare these with that of Trinamul — 96 wards in these five civic bodies, up from 28 in 2008. (See chart)

Another feature that stood out was the wide victory margins in some wards. In Ward 1 of Calcutta where a bypoll was held and in Ward 45 of Howrah, Trinamul won by around 10,000 votes. The margin is remarkable, considering the voter base in both wards was around 45,000 each.

“The results couldn’t have been better…. This is a precursor to what is coming next, the Lok Sabha elections,” said a senior Trinamul leader, who did not wish to be named, citing the party policy of “being humble in victory”.

Others gave credit to the chief minister. “People of Bengal are supporting Mamata Banerjee’s development work and the results are a reflection of that,” Trinamul all-India general secretary and party MP Mukul Roy said.

Trinamul’s victory follows its wins in nine of the 12 municipalities that went to elections on September 21. The party had also made big gains in the July panchayat elections, taking control of 13 of the 17 zilla parishads by displacing the Left.

Roy today announced that the party would mark its victory and also observe its annual martyrs’ day programme together on January 30 at the Brigade Parade Grounds.

The CPM blamed rigging — a charge it used to face while in power. “What do we do? There was massive Trinamul-sponsored rigging and terror on the day of elections. However, we will analyse our performance shortly,” leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said.

A CPM leader sought solace in the Congress’s performance, saying it should not be looked down upon. The Congress managed to win some seats even after suffering defections in several municipalities with hordes of councillors switching to Trinamul over the past few months.

In 2008, in these places the Congress had bagged 52 seats.

“The drop in the Congress figure is because of defections to Trinamul in Krishnagar. Otherwise, they fared better than the Left,” conceded a Trinamul leader.

For Trinamul, the loudest cheer was stored for winning the Howrah Municipal Corporation that the Left had been running for the past 29 years. Of the 50 wards, with one to undergo a repoll, Trinamul won 41 this time. This, for the Left, was in stark contrast to its 2008 tally of 33 wards.

According to a CPM leader, anti-incumbency was a factor in Howrah, particularly the ire of a section of the electorate against defeated mayor Mamata Jaiswal for being a “non-performer’’.

Today’s Trinamul victory comes months after the party won the Howrah Lok Sabha bypolls in June by a margin of 27,000 votes.

Trinamul snatched the Jhargram municipality from the Left that the steered it for 31 years uninterrupted.

From the 14 seats it got in 2008, the Left’s tally came down to one today. A CPM leader admitted that the killings by Maoists have come to end in the Jhargram belt during Mamata’s rule and that was one of the factors that contributed to Trinamul’s sweep in this municipality that lies on the border of the once Maoist-infested area.

Trinamul tightened its grip over the Midnapore civic body today by winning 13 of the 25 wards. Here again, the Left’s figure has come down from eight to five, the coalition failing to cash in the dissidence in the ruling party in this municipality.

Krishnagar municipality, that saw 13 Congress councillors defecting to Trinamul three months ago and thereby led to the collapse of the Congress board there, today threw up a nil-Opposition figure. All the 24 wards went to Trinamul, though initially two Independents won but joined the ruling party later in the day.

The development coincided with Congress chairman of Santipur municipality Ajoy De defecting to Trinamul today with 18 of the 19 councillors.