Old Maoist bastions and Tribal areas turn towards BJP in West Bengal Panchayat polls

In the recently concluded panchayat elections in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress remained victorious by a tremendous margin. But what is noticeable is the emergence of the BJP as the second largest party. While the TMC has scored a resounding 85% of the overall seats, the BJP has made significant inroads in certain areas.

According to reports, the BJP has not only managed to thwart the TMC wave in the tribal regions, it has registered success in former Maoist bastions of the state like Purulia and Jhargram. Not only in these two districts, BJP has surged in other areas like Bankura, Dakshin Dinajpur, Uttar Dinajpur, Birbhum, Paschim Medinipur, Malda, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri districts. A report in The New Indian Express quoted West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh saying that this is the beginning of the downfall of the TMC. He also added that Mamata Banerjee rode to success with the support of the tribal population but the tribals have now vexed with the TMC and increasingly supporting the BJP. He further added that the BJP is promoting young leaders from these reasons.

Mamata Banerjee, however, refuses to acknowledge it. She blames that the BJP cadres have ‘entered’ from the neighbouring states and are unleashing terror on the masses with the help of the Maoists. But as claimed by the same report, TMC secretary Partha Chatterjee stated that the TMC will have to look into the reasons of its bad performance in the tribal areas.

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In Jhargram district, all former Maoist strongholds have been won by BJP. Gram Panchayats like Lalgarh, Belpahari, Jamboni, Gopiballavpur, Nayagram and Sankrail are won by BJP. In Purulia district, all the Gram panchayats in Balrampur area and have been won by BJP. The same has been reportedly repeated former Maoist strongholds in Bankura district too.

According to a report in Livemint, Biswanath Chakraborty, psephologist and a professor of Political science in the Rabindra Bharti University has stated that BJP’s emergence in the tribal-dominated regions has a reason. He added that the tribals do not take betrayal kindly and over the years the areas have seen rampant corruption and the regions do not reflect the development story the TMC propagates. The same report also claims that the BJP district President Sukhamay Satpati in Jhargram has stated that the tribals have been unhappy with the state machinery rehabilitating former Maoists in the same areas. He added that the locals who suffered the atrocities of the Maoists are feeling they have been dumped as they see the very same Maoists being allowed to settle into new lives.

After BJP, the next largest number of seats have reportedly been won by independent candidates. The report quoted Prasenjit Bose, social activist and economist as saying that at least 1946 seats have been won by independent candidates and a lot of these candidates are dissenters from within the TMC. Bhangar, the area that has seen the anti-power grid agitation over the recent months also saw independent candidates winning despite threats and violence by TMC goons.

The BJP has reportedly won 644 of the 1944 gram panchayat seats in Purulia and 329 0f the 806 seats in Jhargram district. In total the BJP has taken its tally in gram panchayat seats from earlier 548 to 5759 and Panchayat Samiti seats from 33 to 764. The BJP has also won 23 Zilla Parishad seats this time.

The Panchayat polls were marred by widespread reports of violence, murder and even capturing of ballot boxes.

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