9.5% of West Bengal panchayat seats uncontested, down from 34%
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) won around 90% of seats in the last round of rural elections in 2018
Around 9.5% of West Bengal’s 73,887 panchayat seats have been won uncontested by various parties, nomination data indicated on Wednesday, marking a big dip from five years ago when the winners in a third of all seats were declared without any contest.
The deadline for the withdrawal of nominations for the July 8 polls ended on Tuesday. The results will be announced on July 11. The nomination period was roiled by political clashes with at least eight people dying across four districts. Elections will be held at three-tier panchayats in 20 districts and two-tier panchayats in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.
In the last round of rural elections in 2018, when large-scale violence lashed the state and killed 20 people, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) had bagged around 90% seats, of which 34% were uncontested.
Although the data compiled by the state election commission (SEC) did not identify the parties that already won seats, the district-wise beak-up of candidates held some clues.
In Birbhum district, where TMC controls all panchayats, the two Lok Sabha seats and 10 of the 11 assembly constituencies, the party won one of the 52 zilla parishad seats. As per TMC leaders their candidates won more than 800 gram panchayat and around 120 panchayat samiti seats uncontested.
TMC district president Anubrata Mondal is lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail in connection with a cattle smuggling case being probed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED). But TMC is the only party to contest all 2,859 gram panchayat seats and all 490 panchayat samiti seats in Birbhum. Its closest rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is contesting only 1,284 and 297 seats in gram panchayats and panchayat samitis respectively.
Going bythe figures,the TMC has won around 920 seats in Birbhum.
In North 24 Parganas, only TMC is contesting all 4,535 gram panchayat seats. While BJP and CPI(M) have fielded around 2,200 candidates each, Congress is contesting in only 466.
The number of BJP candidates is considerably higherthan other opposition parties in Purulia and West Midnapore districts, regions where the party performed well in 2018.
The Congress, which has a strong base in Murshidabad and Malda, has fielded the maximum number of candidates in these two districts.
In north Bengal, data showed that the BJP is contesting 355 of the 383 seats in Cooch Behar, all 189 seats in Alipurduar and 185 of 189 seats in South Dinajpur. The BJP is also contesting most of the gram panchayat and zilla parishad seats in these districts. TMC is contesting almost all seats in north Bengal region except in the hill areas.
The TMC is not contesting any of the 76 panchayat samiti seats in Kalimpong and only 11 of the 156 panchayat samiti seats in Darjeeling, indicating that it wants to leave the competition to its ally, the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha led by Anit Thapa.
After thousands of people, including 6,846 TMC candidates withdrew their nominations, the TMC is now left with 61934 candidates. The BJP, CPI(M) and Congress now has 39,617, 36,257 and 12,636 candidates, respectively.
The number of independent candidates was 16,292.
There are 61,636 polling booths in the districts for 63,229 gram panchayat seats, 9,730 panchayat samiti seats and 928 zilla parishad seats. The number of voters is 56.7 million.
BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar blamed the TMC.
“This 9.5% figure would have been 4.5 % if we could file nominations and there was no violence. TMC has destroyed democracy,” said Majumdar.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee brushed aside the allegations.
“The Opposition is using federal agencies and making allegations because it is incapable of facing us politically. People will give them a befitting reply. Never before were no many nominations filed. The violence took place in only four polling booth areas. We lost two of our men as well,” the chief minister said.
CPI(M) and BJP have also won some seats.
Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “Three of our gram panchayat candidates won uncontested in Birbhum, North 24 Parganas and South Dinajpur districts.” A CPI(M) state functionary said his party won three gram panchayat seats in East Burdwan district.