The ruling Trinamool Congress looked set to sweep the West Bengal countryside after five hours of counting of the votes in the violence marred three-tier panchayat elections which took place on May 14.
The party was heading for control of well over 80% of the gram panchayats and 90% of the panchayat samitis. It was also leading in all 20 zilla parishads. BJP was a very distant second, while the Left and Congress were pushed to the margins.
At the zilla parishad level, Trinamool was leading in 359 seats, BJP in 9, Left in 2 and Congress in 5.
In Hooghly district, the Trinamool made a clean sweep of the gram panchayats winning all 207 seats.
At 1:30 pm, in South Dinajpur district, the TMC was leading in 711 gram panchayat seats, while the BJP was leading in 23. In East Midnapore, Trinamoolwas leading in 1987 seats, and BJP was in the second position with leads in 33 while the Left was third with leads in 13 seats. In Bankura district, the Trinamoolwas leading in 1,013 seats, BJP in 14 and the Left on 15.
At the panchayat samiti level, the Trinamoolwas leading in 75 seats followed by the BJP at 3 and Left at 1. In Murshidabad, Trinamoolled at 133, followed by Congress at 1, while in North Dinajpur, the Trinamoolwas leading in 101 seats while the BJP led in 8, the Left in 2 and the Congress in 6.
Ruling party supporters began celebrating their victory with green gulal, sweets and firecrackers In different districts..
“The opposition has been blown away by Trinamool Congress gale. People have overwhelmingly voted for the ruling party,” said food and supplies minister and party president of North 24 Parganas district Jyotipriyo Mullick.
But the BJP which has been trying hard to get a foothold in Bengal said the elctions and the counting were farcical.
“The election was a farce. The counting, too, is almost a farce. It is quite irrelevant who comes second or third,” said BJP Bengal unit general secretary Sayantan Basu.
“We are in the fight. The picture is not yet clear,” said BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.
However, five of the eight Bhangar land agitators who filed their nomination on Whatsapp after they were prevented from reaching government offices allegedly by Trinamool supporters, won from Polerhat II gram panchayat. All of they had fought as independent candidates.
Counting of ballot papers is taking place in 291 centres in 20 districts in which elections took place.
The entire election process has been marred by violence starting from April 2 when nominations started. At least 40 people have been killed in poll-related violence since April 2.
There were allegations of violence in a few areas on counting day too.
In a counting centre Majdia in Krishnaganj block in Nadia district, goons allegedly backed by the TMC, stormed the centre and started stamping ballot papers when they found the CPI(M) candidate was leading. The CPI(M) agent alleged that incident took place when votes from booth numbers 90 and 101 of Shibnibas gram panchayat were being counted. TV channels aired footage of a man stamping papers on a table inside the counting centre.
On Wednesday, opposition parties had expressed apprehensions of violence on the day of counting as well.
To allay such fears the state election commission and administration have taken a few steps such as declaring prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC within a radius of 200 metres of the counting centres.
Only a few officers were allowed to carry mobile phones inside the counting centres.
The Trinamool Congress set a record by winning 34.2% of the total 58,692 seats without a contest. While opposition leaders alleged their candidates were not allowed to file nomination papers, the ruling party leaders claimed that the opposition parties did not find anyone willing to represent them in those constituencies.
The Supreme Court has directed the state poll panel not to announce the winners for these uncontested seats without its consent. The next hearing in in the case is on July 3
Therefore, results for the remaining 65.8% of the seats will be declared on Thursday.