Trinamul on Tuesday came up with a stellar performance in Jungle Mahal, which has been a BJP stronghold since 2018, with Bengal's ruling party establishing significant leads in most of the rural bodies in the four districts.
“The sweep in Jungle Mahal region will help us ensure the BJP’s defeat here in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The top party leaders are happy as we managed to break the hegemony of the saffron camp there,” said a Trinamul leader in Calcutta.
Jungle Mahal comprises four districts — Jhargram, Purulia, Bankura andWest Midnapore.
The results of the gram panchayat level clearly showed the very thin presence of the saffron camp that, significantly, had won a large number of rural bodies in the 2018 rural polls. The BJP had led in 31 of the Assembly segments out of 40 from this region in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Although Trinamul could wrest at least a dozen seats from the BJP in the 2021 Assembly polls, the saffron camp managed to assert its dominance in Bankura and Purulia by winning most seats in these two districts.
Although counting in the other two tiers — panchayat samiti and zilla parishad — is underway, poll experts said there would be no major change in the trends.
In 2018, the BJP won 329 gram panchayat seats out of 806 seats in Jhargam, while Trinamul bagged 392 seats. In this rural poll, according to the result that has poured in till 7pm, the BJP could bag only 122 out of 898-gram panchayat seats in Jhargram, while Trinamul won 656 seats.
A Trinamul leader in Jhargram said the party already had a majority in 68 of the 79 gram panchayats, while the BJP is yet to win a single gram panchayat. In 2018, the BJP had majority in 24 gram panchayats.
In Purulia, the BJP won 645 gram panchayat seats out of the 1,944 against Trinamul’s 863 in the 2018 rural polls. In the 2023 rural polls, as results poured in on Tuesday, the BJP had won 608 seats of the 3,591 panchayat seats in contrast to Trinamul’s 2,208. The trend was the same in Bankura and West Midnapore.
BJP leaders in the region did not hide their concern over the results and what they bode for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
“We will sit with our leaders to find out the lapses as we have been defeated in our stronghold,” said Tufan Mahata, the BJP Jhargram district president.
Trinamul leaders claimed that the game-changer in Jungle Mahal was the Mamata Banerjee government’s Lakshmir Bhandar scheme, which directly transfers funds to women. Secondly, the region has a large population living below the poverty line. The poll results seemed to show that voters were convinced by Trinamul’s narrative on how the BJP was depriving Bengal by withholding crores of central funds as “revenge” for losing the 2021 Assembly polls, something that Trinamul national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has repeatedly talked about during his recent outreach.
BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said another reason behind their “poor show” in Jungle Mahal was the decision of over 500 Kurmis, a traditionally saffron-leaning community, to contest as Independents at the gram panchayat level. Over 200 such Independents have won so far.