The Trinamool Congress secured an emphatic victory in the erstwhile civic elections held between April 18 and 25, winning an overwhelming number of seats in the municipalities and wards across the state. The green wave, led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, swept across West Bengal, as the Trinamool scored 70 out of 92, the Left six and the Congress five. For the State BJP unit, which had harboured high hopes of challenging the ruling establishment, it was a rude wake-up call. It failed to win a single municipality in the state. Only four percent of voters in the state had backed its candidates, down from 17 per cent during the Lok Sabha polls, dealing a huge blow to its ambitions of posing a political challenge to the TMC in the 2016 Assembly polls. This victory follows the TMC’s resounding success in the two by-polls that were held last month.
Political commentators across the board had seen both these civic elections and last month’s by-polls as key tests for the TMC’s popularity in the state following the arrest of key party leaders by the CBI in the Saradha scam, allied with murmurs of dissidence within its ranks. The resounding victory in these civic elections will be another shot in the arm for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who in recent months has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre of trying to politically use the investigating agency to corner her party in West Bengal. The party, according to sources, will be hoping that the result will also send out a clear message to its rank and file, where several murmurs of dissidence were witnessed in the recent past.
What is even more impressive for the TMC is that it went through these civic polls without the active participation of long-time Mamata aide and former party general secretary Mukul Roy. The decades-old bond between the TMC chief and Roy came under stress after the CBI interrogated him on January 30 in connection with the Saradha scam. He was subsequently let off by the agency, in a move some believe was orchestrated by the BJP-led Centre. Their relationship soured further after Roy reiterated that he would co-operate with the CBI in the investigation. Roy’s comments were, many believe, in gross violation of the party line, which said that the BJP was using the CBI to finish off Mamata Banerjee in the political arena. Political commentators were hesitant to suggest that last month’s by-poll results had marked a TMC-led resurgence in the state. These civic polls, however, will further confirm the ruling party’s hold over West Bengal, minus Roy.
For the State BJP, though, these results came as a jolt for the party’s prospect in West Bengal. After relative success in the Lok Sabha elections and subsequent Basirhat South assembly by-poll last year, the BJP was looking to consolidate its position in the state. In addition to the State unit, these civic election results are major a setback for the BJP’s top brass at the Centre, who’ve looked to exploit the fallout from the Saradha scam. This defeat will force senior party leaders to rethink its Bengal strategy, where its president Amit Shah and RSS leaders had campaigned extensively. Things, however, look bright for the TMC-led establishment ahead of next year’s assembly polls.