Despite sporadic clashes between Trinamool Congress and CPM workers, the civic polls in West Bengal on Sunday were by and large peaceful with 65 per cent voter turnout. The election, which is being seen as a semi-final before the 2011 state Assembly polls, was held in 81 civic bodies and in the 141-ward Kolkata Municipal Corporation, involving 85 lakh voters.
All the three major players – Left, Trinamool and Congress – have a lot at stake in today’s polls. For Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, a good showing by the Left can be projected as their revival after the debacle in the Lok Sabha election.
For Mamata Banerjee, who has campaigned vigorously for the polls, the results are expected to give enough indications on whether she will ride to power in the Assembly polls due next May. An important factor is that the Trinamool has parted ways with the Congress for the civic polls and may choose to go it alone in the Assembly elections if the results are in its favour.
On Sunday evening, the Trinamool seemed at ease. Union Minister Mukul Roy, a close aide of Mamata, said, “Voting was by and large peaceful. In Jadavpur, we have asked for repolling in two wards where CPM cadres had resorted to violence.”
In Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls, the Congress, which had fielded its candidates in 115 of the 141 wards, seemed out of fight except in 20-25 seats in its strongholds in north and central Kolkata. Its offices
in many places wore a deserted look.
In ward numbers 100-113, which fall in Jadavpur, the Assembly constituency of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the CPM and Trinamool were in a direct fight.
There was speculation that the Maoist carnage on railway track might have an impact on the civic election. But TMC leader Partho Chatterjee said: “The incident will go against the ruling party.”
CPM leader Shyamal Chakraborty was not sure about their prospect. “We should not compare the poll results of previous elections,” he said.
At Hatibagan, Kolkata, where Trinamool Congress strongman Atin Ghosh was contesting, Congress offices were almost empty. In North Kolkata’s Beleghata Shanti Sangha School stood the lone umbrella bearing the Congress hand symbol, but none of the supporters were there.
Traditionally, wards 1 to 47 have been the support bases for the CPM and the Congress. But since former state Congress president Somen Mitra left the party and joined the TMC, prospects of the Congress have gone down.
The wards 48 to 97 and 114 to 137 are dominated by Trinamool because most of the wards fall under Mamata’s Lok Sabha constituency.
Trinamool is already in an advantageous position in Salt Lake. This is because out of the 25 seats in the municipalities, the Congress had fielded candidates in only 14 seats, leaving 11 for direct fight between the TMC and the CPM.
CPM sources said that a section of Congress voters did not turn up for voting, which might prove to be an advantage for Mamata.
In Congress stronghold of Murshidabad there was 85 per cent polling in the six municipalities. The Congress is expected to do well here.