Trinamool Sweep

Trinamool Congress workers celebrate the party’s performance in the West Bengal Panchayat polls in Joka May 17. (IANS photo)

KOLKATA — After nearly eight hours of vote counting in the three-tier state Panchayat elections, the ruling Trinamool Congress has control of over 80 percent of the Gram Panchayat seats and looks set for a resounding victory in rural Bengal.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged a distant second in almost all districts.

According to the latest trend, Trinamool won in 20 out of 825 Zilla Parishad seats and was comfortably leading in another 22, while the opposition parties drew blanks.

The state ruling party also came out victorious in at least 160 out of 6,125 Panchayat Samiti seats and were leading in another 173 constituencies, the latest poll result data released by the State Election Commission said.

The BJP and the left managed to bag one Panchayat Samiti seat each.

The BJP also managed to advance or win a section of Panchayat seats, especially in the Murshidabad and Jhargram districts, while the Left and Congress were pushed to the margins.

The Trinamool Congress leadership, however, refused to celebrate as many votes had yet to be counted.

"It is a massive victory for Trinamool. The opposition thought giving outside support to Independent candidates would reap benefits for them. It has been proved wrong as all of them have been wiped clean. People voted for Trinamool Congress and its leader Mamata Banerjee," West Bengal Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick said.

Sporadic incidents of violence over the election results were reported from certain districts, including Nadia where a group of miscreants allegedly stole the ballot boxes. The vote counting was halted for almost three hours in Nadia's Majhdia after allegations of ballot paper tampering were received.

"There are some reports of unrest in the districts but the concerned administration has already taken action. There are no reports of major violence from anywhere," SEC Secretary Nilanjan Shandilya told IANS.

In Birbhum, BJP and Trinamool Congress activists clashed outside a counting station. The police had to resort to baton charges to disperse the mob.

In West Bengal's Bhangar, which has been on the boil for the last year over the state government’s construction of a power grid sub-station, Independent candidates backed by Jomi-Jibika-Bastutantra O Poribesh Rokkha Committee (committee for protecting life, livelihood, ecology and environment) won five out of the eight Gram Panchayat seats wherever voting took place.

The Panchayat Samiti, however, was won by ruling party strongman Arabul Islam who was arrested a day before the election for his alleged involvement in the murder of a local youth.

The polling for Bengal Panchayat polls took place May 14 amid reports of widespread violence and clashes between rival political groups that led to repolling in 573 booths in 19 of the 20 districts May 16.

According to the state administration, 12 people were killed on polling day, and six of the deaths were confirmed to be due to poll violence.

However, opposition political parties and a section of the media claimed the polling day death toll reached 21. Five more people died May 15.

Initially, voting for the rural bodies was to be held May 1, 3 and 5, but as the nomination process started in April, the SEC rescheduled the vote for May 14, following a Calcutta High Court order to extend the nomination deadline and announce a fresh polling date.

Statistics reveal that of the total 58,692 seats in the three tiers of the rural local bodies, 20,076 seats, or 34.2 percent, have been decided uncontested, with the Trinamool bagging a whopping proportion of these seats.

These include 16,814 of the total 48,650 Gram Panchayats seats, 3,059 of the 9,217 Panchayat Samiti seats and 203 of the 825 Zila Parishad seats.

The Supreme Court has now asked the SEC not to issue winning certificates in these seats.

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