Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is leading in all seven municipal corporations where elections were held on Sunday in West Bengal, looking set to make major inroads in the four civic bodies in the hills of Darjeeling, a stronghold for years of BJP ally the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).
While the Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong corporations were held by the GJM, Mirik is a new municipality.
In Raiganj and Domkal in the plains, traditionally Congress strongholds, too the Trinamool is forging ahead. And in Pujali near Kolkata. Opposition parties have demanded fresh elections in all these three municipalities after they withdrew their candidates from many seats on Sunday, polling day, because of violence and booth capturing, which they blame on the ruling party.
Left leader Sitaram Yechury called it a “mockery of democracy and blatant misuse of state machinery” while the Congress has gone to court seeking that the elections be cancelled. A Kolkata court will hear its petition this morning.
The Trinamool Congress has rejected the allegations and blamed the BJP for the violence, which saw clashes between political workers, electronic voting machines or EVMs damaged in several wards and policeman injured.
Voting in the hill municipalities was largely peaceful. A Trinamool win today will be a blow for the BJP, which has embarked on a “Mission Bengal” that envisages installing the party’s government by the next assembly elections in a state where it has had minimal presence till recently.
More immediately, BJP chief Amit Shah has instructed state leaders to ensure that the party wins the maximum seats from Bengal in the 2019 general election.
After the party came second to Mamata Banerjee’s party earlier this year in a by-election in West Bengal’s Kanthi Dakshin assembly seat – increasing its vote share substantially in the one year since the assembly elections – Mr Shah had thanked voters for making the BJP “the principal opposition party” in the state.
The BJP had won two Lok Sabha seats from Bengal in 2014, increasing its vote share from four to 17 per cent. The Trinamool had won 34 of the state’s 40 parliament seats. Last year, Ms Banerjee’s party swept the assembly elections for a second term for her as Chief Minister. The BJP won four seats, the party’s best performance ever in the state.