In a major boost for the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), ahead of the Assembly elections next year, the party on Saturday scored a landslide victory in civic poll elections to Bidhannagar and Asansol Municipal Corporations and wrested Bally civic body from the Left Front. In Bidhannagar, which is considered to be one of the high-profile civic bodies of the state, the ruling party bagged 37 of the 41 wards. Opposition CPI(M)’s mayoral candidate and former state Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta and <g data-gr-id="39">Ramala</g> Chakraborty, widow of former Left Front strongman Subhas Chakraborty, were among the heavyweights who lost the polls in Bidhannagar. Interestingly, the BJP failed to win a single seat here during the Left, and the Congress just won two seats each. Meanwhile in Asansol out of the 106 wards, TMC won 74, leaving the Left with 17 and BJP 8. In Bally, the opposition was washed out with Trinamool winning all the 16 seats there. These victories have emphatically ensured that the Trinamool Congress’ hold over the urban electorate continues unabated. The margin of the victory is an indication that the political space for the opposition has shrunken to a great extent. Also, the TMC’s supremacy remains unchallenged – four and half years after it had come to power in the 2011 Assembly polls. Despite the best attempts of opposition parties and the Governor to stifle the poll process, results have shown that the voter continues to trust the TMC. Without notifying the State government, the State Election Commission (SEC) and the Governor KN Tripathi sought the deployment of central security forces during civic polls. Moreover, the SEC recommended re-polling in 11 booths after allegations of gross misconduct against the TMC party workers by opposition parties. Needless to say, such allegations did not hold much water with the voter, as the party swept to victory. TMC Secretary General Partha Chatterjee was right to claim the victory as a mandate in favour of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “In spite of massive propaganda and canards against the party, the people have reposed faith in our supreme leader and our party. We hail this as a victory of the people of Bengal and a befitting reply to the opposition,” he said.
The illusions harboured by opposition parties seem to get shattered at every occasion. In the erstwhile civic elections held in April, the party secured an emphatic victory, winning an overwhelming number of seats in the municipalities and wards across the state. The party swept across West Bengal, as the Trinamool scored 70 out of 92, the Left six and the Congress five. For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had harboured high hopes of challenging the ruling establishment, it was a rude wake-up call. It had failed to win a single municipality in the state. Prior to these civic elections, the two by-polls held in February saw the TMC retain both the Bongaon Lok Sabha seat and Krishanganj Assembly segment with huge margins. Many political commentators had seen these by-polls as a litmus test for the TMC’s popularity in the state following the arrest of key party leaders by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Saradha scam, allied with murmurs of dissidence within its ranks. 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. The ruling party at the Centre was, however, humbled in both by-polls. These civic poll results, meanwhile, have only reiterated the voter’s mood against the BJP. In their apparent bid to establish a foothold in the state, the Bengal BJP and other opposition parties are willing to go to any lengths. Suffice to say, Banerjee has thrown down the gauntlet to political rivals from across the state.