BJP gains ground in rural Bengal -Panchayat poll analysis

published on June 11, 2008
Author: Ranjit Roy

Bharatiya Janata Party in West Bengal is steadily gaining ground in
rural areas. In recently concluded Panchayat elections the party
captured two Zilla Parishad seats in Malda and Birbhum. In addition,
the party has wrested 184 seats in Panchayat Samitis and another 1,271
Gram Panchayat seats mostly from the ruling CPM.

The BJP state secretary Rahul Sinha had earlier appealed to
all anti-Left parties to forge an alliance against the Left forces in
Panchayat elections. Although Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress,
largest Opposition Party in West Bengal, angrily turned down Sinha’s
appeal, it was ordinary villagers who had forced such an anti-Left
alliance without party flags at least in seven districts. The BJP
candidates without their party symbol (lotus) won 9 seats in Samitis
and 159 seats in Gram Panchayats. As a result, four Panchayat Samitis
will be directly under BJP against only one in the last 2003 Panchayat
elections in the state. Moreover, there will be 76 BJP Pradhans in the
lowest tier of Panchayati Raj.

No doubt, the success is phenomenon considering widespread
violence and rigging unleashed by the CPM during the election run-up
this year.

As Bengal watched red terror with fear and disbelief, the
state’s three-phase seventh Panchayat elections came to a bloody end on
May 18. At least 24 people were killed and another 150 maimed by armed
gangs of red brigade during the three-phase polling. This is a clear
reminder that rural governance through peaceful democratic process is
not possible under the CPM-led government.

The results of the seventh Panchayat elections in the state
have clearly showed that the BJP has its support base in all the 17
districts of West Bengal. However, success of the Opposition in rural
Bengal against the ruling CPM is only the beginning of a long bitter
tussle to end the misrule of the communists in the state. True, there
will be polling in six or seven municipalities on June 29. But the real
trial of strength will be witnessed only in the Lok Sabha poll
scheduled to be held early next year. No individual political party has
organisational network to match the CPM’s time-tested election
machinery in the state. But if major Opposition parties are united
together to fight against the Left in 1:1 formula in order to prevent
division of anti-Left votes then it is possible to defeat Left
candidates in majority Lok Sabha seats. The effectiveness of this
formula has been proved in the recent Panchayat elections as all
conscious Opposition candidates have won in Gram Panchayat poll. There
was no conscious candidate in Zilla Parishads and in most Panchayat
Samitis thanks to Mamata Banerjee’s dictum, “My party Trinamul Congress
will go alone in Panchayat elections. We shall never forge an alliance
with the BJP as well as Congress. My party has strength to defeat the

West Bengal BJP’s success in 2008 Panchayat elections


Panchayat Samiti

Gram Panchayat
Cooch Behar 17 84
Jalpaiguri 13 97
North Dinajpur 13
South Dinajpur 3 41
Malda 17 72
Murshidabad 3 29
Nadia 33 225
N-24 Pargana 25 143
S-24 Pargana 5 45
Howrah 8 89
Hooghly 3 32
Burdwan 12 121
Birbhum 13 77
Bankura 8 66
Purulia 3 26
E-Midnapore 8 61
W-Midnapore 11 46

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