In the violence-hit West Bengal panchayat elections, the counting of votes for 928 Zilla Parishads, 9,730 Panchayat Samitis and 63,299 Gram Panchayat seats began on Tuesday morning amid tight security.
In the 2018 rural body elections, the Trinamool Congress had won all 20 Zilla Parishad seats, but the BJP managed to make inroads in Jangal Mahal and some areas of North Bengal. The opposition BJP has alleged a repeat of the violence that unfolded in 2018 and Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari has demanded a CBI probe. BJP has also formed a fact-finding team which will start work after the Panchayat election results.
Tuesday’s results are the only semi-finals the state will see before the big Lok Sabha battle of 2024. The BJP’s performance will be watched in areas like Jungle Mahal, Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram as well as North Bengal – where the ruling TMC has been wary this time.
Here’s a look at the key factors west bengal panchayat election 2023,
How will be the performance of TMC in the minority area?
The pre-poll violence in the state mostly took place in two minority-dominated areas – Bhangar and Murshidabad. It will be interesting to see if there is any division in TMC’s minority vote share here. The party has got a major share of minority votes here since 2014. It is to be noted that the Congress had won the Sagardighi bypoll in Murshidabad in March this year.
The party’s main challenger in Murshidabad is the Congress, while in Bhangar it is the Indian Secular Front. Retaining its minority vote share could be a challenge for the TMC this time.
How will BJP perform in Jungle Mahal and North Bengal?
Will the BJP be able to retain its position in Jangal Mahal and North Bengal or will it lose its dominance in these key areas?
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee mentioned both the areas in her panchayat election rally on 3 July. “BJP has destroyed Kashmir and Manipur through its divisive politics and is now behind West Bengal. They support and instigate divisive forces and separatist groups in northern Bengal and Jangal Mahal (in the south) to divide the state. We will not allow division of the state and will not defeat such forces.
Congress and Left fate
Both the Congress and the Left failed to open their accounts in the 2021 West Bengal assembly elections. The former won the Sagardighi bypoll but MLA Byron Biswas joined the TMC shortly after. Both the parties have campaigned aggressively but whether this will translate into electoral gains remains to be seen.
Voting on Saturday was marred by violence that left 15 people dead, while ballot boxes were smashed, ballot papers set on fire and bombs hurled at rivals in several places. The total death toll in the state has reportedly crossed 30 since the polling process began on June 8, when the polling date was announced.
A voter turnout of 80.71 per cent was recorded on Saturday, while 69.85 per cent votes were cast till 5 pm in 696 booths in West Bengal, where re-polling was held on Monday due to violence on Saturday and tampering with ballot boxes and ballot papers. ,
In the 2018 panchayat elections, TMC won all 20 Zilla Parishads. Polling that time too was marred by widespread violence, with opposition parties alleging that they were prevented from filing nominations in several seats across the state.