Withdrawal of nominations by Opposition candidates for municipalities for the February 27 civic polls continued on Saturday with the “cornered” Opposition going to the extent of sending several of their candidates “underground” to keep them “safe” from the ruling Trinamul.
Saturday was the last day of withdrawing nominations for the February 27 civic polls.
In many places, hiding their candidates wasn’t enough, Opposition leaders alleged. Sources said withdrawal of candidature by the Opposition was highest in Birbhum among south Bengal districts. On Saturday, 10 wards out of 22 in Birbhum’s Bolpur municipality were announced uncontested as all Opposition nominees withdrew their papers.
Five wards in Rampurhat went uncontested after all BJP nominees in 18 wards withdrew their papers. In the 2015 civic polls, the BJP had won in four wards in Rampurhat.
Opposition leaders at various municipalities in Birbhum said they sent their candidates underground to avoid withdrawal of candidature under “tremendous pressure from the ruling Trinamul”.
“Candidates from our party and Congress are contesting in 13 wards out of 18 in Rampurhat. We had to send our candidates underground to avoid anyone coercing them to withdraw from the fray. Trinamul supporters are celebrating victory in many wards, but people are seeing this as defeat for the ruling party,” said Sanjib Barman, a CPM district secretariat member in Birbhum.
Many BJP leaders in Birbhum accused senior leaders of selecting candidates who lacked the confidence to fight against Trinamul nominees.
Refuting charges of forcing rival candidates to withdraw, Trinamul leaders said the Opposition was trying to hide their organisational weakness.
“Candidates are withdrawing their papers on their own and there is no official complaint of threats. Those who understood that Trinamul clearly has an edge withdrew,” said a Trinamul leader in Bolpur.
District Trinamul chief Anurbata Mondal declined to comment on the withdrawal of Opposition candidates.
Birbhum’s five civic bodies would go to the polls on February 27. Trinamul has already won a majority of seats in Suri and Sainthia unopposed.
Apart from Birbhum, withdrawal of nomination papers was reported from Bankura or Hooghly. At least five candidates in Hooghly’s Arambagh municipality, five from each Bankura and Bishnupur civic body withdrew their nomination papers on Saturday.