Five of the nine candidates who had filed nominations via WhatsApp have won in the West Bengal Panchayat elections. According to reports they belonged to the Polerait II gram panchayat in the outskirts of Kolkata.
The candidates were backed by the Jami Jibika Bastu o Pribesh Rakkha Committee. The area has an ongoing controversy over a major power grid substation being built there and the win of the independent candidates is expected to change the political narrative in the area. Rest of the seats have been mostly won by TMC candidates. The names of the five candidates who have won are as follows, Azizul Mollah, Ishraful Mollah, Chhaleara Bibi, Fariduddin Mollah and Jahanara Bibi.
The nine candidates had moved to the Kolkata High Court last month alleging that they were being attacked and threatened by TMC goons to stop them from filing nomination papers and the HC had allowed them to file nominations via WhatsApp.
The Bhangar area has been constantly in news for all the bad reasons during the Panchayat polls. TMC leader Arabul Islam was arrested over death of a person supporting one of the independent candidates and a day later crude bombs were found in his house. Arabul, his son and daughter-in-law have all won seats in the elections. According to a report in Times of India, CM Mamata Banerjee has stated that the fact that Arabul and his family members have won show that they have the people’s support. She has also reportedly criticised the independent candidates saying that they are backed by Maoists and they are trying to prevent a central project from being implemented.
The Bhangar area has reportedly seen several violent clashes in the last one and half years over the power grid project.
Widespread clashes, booth capturing, violence has been reported during the Panchayat elections in Bengal. There were also several incidences of journalists being attacked and media vehicles torched. The state Election commission has been criticised for the use of ballot papers instead of EVMs as in many instances, ballot boxes being looted by gunmen was reported. Even Mamata’s own cabinet minister Rabindra Nath Ghosh was caught slapping a political rival on camera. TMC leader Derek O’Brien was widely criticised for trying to downplay the poll violence and calling it ‘normal’.
Due to threats of violence, about 18,000 seats were won uncontested in the Panchayat polls by TMC candidates. As the results are being announced, TMC has reportedly won all 20 Zilla Parishads, about 29,585 seats in Gram Panchayats and 3315 seats in the Panchayat Samiti. The BJP is has been the second largest party but remains far behind with just 5636 seats so far.