Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections: One more victory for Trinamool Congress

Print edition : January 14, 2022

A protest by Left Front activists against alleged rigging and violence in the KMC elections in Kolkata on December 20. Photo: PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee named Mala Roy (right) as KMC Chairman and Firhad Hakim (left) as the city Mayor, at a programme in Kolkata on December 23. Photo: PTI

The Trinamool Congress sweeps the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections winning 134 of the 144 wards amid allegations of violence and rigging.

THE ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal continued its winning streak, which began with its massive victory in the Assembly election held in May 2021, by sweeping the prestigious Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) elections that took place on December 19. It won 134 of the 144 wards and secured 72.16 per cent of the votes polled. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which emerged as the main opposition party in the State after the Assembly election, won three wards, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front and the Congress two each and independent candidates won three. The results were declared on December 21.

By winning 93 per cent of the wards, the Trinamool Congress once again established its dominance in the political sphere of Bengal. The party had a lead in 134 wards in the Assembly election and ended up winning the same number of wards in the KMC election. This is the third consecutive win for the party in Kolkata. It has outdone its performance in the KMC election held in 2015. That year, the Trinamool Congress won 114 wards, the Left Front 15, the BJP seven and the Congress five.

Chief Minister and party supremo Mamata Banerjee said this victory was “expected”. She described the outcome as “people’s victory” and a “win for democracy”. “Kolkata is our pride. Kolkata will lead the nation to glory…. The BJP has been decimated, the CPI(M) is nowhere to be seen, and the Congress is sandwiched between the BJP and the CPI(M),” she said.

With Mamata Banerjee making her ambition of being a player at the national level clear, it was crucial for the Trinamool Congress to win big in the first major election held in the State after the Assembly election. The party played it safe and did not take any chances in candidate selection. It fielded old faithfuls and family members of Mamata Banerjee’s loyalists. Prominent Trinamool winners include Cabinet Minister and outgoing Mayor Firhad Hakim, Atin Ghosh, Paresh Pal, Tarak Singh, Mala Roy, and Mamata Banerjee’s sister-in-law Kajari Banerjee. On December 23, Mamata Banerjee re-nominated Firhad Hakim as the Mayor of the city corporation and named Mala Roy as its Chairman.

The Trinamool Congress registered victories even in wards that it had never won before; for instance, ward number 98, which had been held by the Left for the last 36 years.

Also read: Advantage Trinamool in Kolkata municipal election

Partha Chatterjee, Cabinet Minister and party’s general secretary, said: “This is the result of Trinamool being with the people 365 days of the year. Under Mamata Banerjee’s leadership there has been development all over the State. Trinamool has been with the people during Amphan. It has rid Kolkata of COVID, kept the city clean and green and the environment safe. People have been with the Trinamool throughout. The BJP came with its lies and were caught out. They were never with the people, and so, their situation has been deteriorating.”

While neither the Trinamool Congress’ win nor its huge victory margin has come as a surprise, the fact that the Left fared better than the BJP is a clear indication that the saffron party has failed to stem its slide. At present, it is struggling to retain its position as the main political opponent of the Trinamool Congress in Bengal. Since the Assembly election, the BJP has been losing political ground, and its leaders and workers have been switching over to the ruling party. Setbacks in the byelections and defections have reduced the BJP’s strength in the 294-memeber Assembly from 77 to 70.

In the Assembly election, the BJP registered a lead in 13 wards as against a lead in 50 wards in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. It secured around 29 per cent of the votes in the KMC region. This time, it secured 9.19 per cent of the votes. Whereas the Left, which contested the KMC elections without forming an alliance, managed to secure 11.89 per cent of the votes. (In the Assembly election, the Samyukta Morcha (the coalition of the Left, the Congress and the Indian Secular Front) polled only around 7.3 per cent of the votes in the KMC region.) The Left came second in 66 wards and the BJP in 48. The Congress, which did not have a lead in a single ward in the Assembly election, came second in 16 wards.

According to a BJP source, the party is finding it difficult to maintain its position as the main opposition in the face of continuous attacks from the ruling party. “On the one hand we are being constantly targeted by Trinamool goons and our workers are either being threatened or attacked; and on the other, we cannot deny organisational weaknesses. We are struggling to deal with both these problems,” said the source.

The Left and the Congress, which were once the main political forces in Bengal, did not win a single seat in the Assembly election, which was essentially a polarised contest between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP. Their relatively better performance in the KMC elections has given them a fresh lease of life. According to political observers, if they can keep up this momentum there can be a shift in the political dynamics in the State.

Despite winning more than 90 per cent of the wards, the Trinamool could not storm a few opposition bastions. The BJP’s Meena Devi Purohit was re-elected for the sixth time in Ward 22. Santosh Pathak of the Congress won from Ward 45 for the fourth consecutive term. Other prominent winners from the opposition parties are Sajal Ghosh and Vijay Ojha of the BJP, Nandita Roy and Madhuchhanda Deb of the Left, and Wasim Ansari of the Congress.

Also read: Bubble of BJP's organisational base burst

The ruling party’s massive victory was marred by widespread allegations of violence and rigging. Senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said: “Was this any kind of election? This was a disgrace to democracy. I want to point out to the hon’ble Chief Minister that in spite of her party doing exactly what the BJP did in Tripura, she still could not win all the seats like the BJP did. In spite of having so many police personnel, so many goons, the State Election Commission [on your side] and making a syndicate out of them all, you still could not score 100 out of 100. This is shameful.” Chakraborty insinuated that the huge margins of victory were a clear indication of electoral rigging. “We have seen the Trinamool securing 84-87 per cent votes in the Assembly election. They have surpassed that. This time it is as much as 88 per cent and 94 per cent. Does anybody really get 89 per cent of the votes in a corporation election?” he asked.

The Trinamool Congress secured more than 80 per cent of the votes in 35 wards and more than 70 per cent in 75 wards. What is straining the credulity of political opponents and political observers alike is that the party secured more than 93 per cent of the votes in wards 35 and 142.

Opposition-free politics

Biswanath Chakraborty, political observer and psephologist, pointed out that the margins of defeat were so wide that the opposition parties forfeited their deposit in 90 per cent of the seats. He told Frontline that the Trinamool’s move to establish an “opposition-free” political environment was the reason behind the continuing violence in Bengal politics.

He said: “The Trinamool’s successful implementation of welfare programmes such as Laxmir Bhandar and Kanyashree no doubt paid electoral dividends, but the ruling party failed to restore democracy in the State, in spite of party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee promising that Kolkata will witness a peaceful election this time. The role of the State Election Commission in conducting free and fair elections left much to be desired. The Kolkata Police failed to ensure peace during the polling. As a result, political touts of the ruling party played a decisive role on election day. This election once again showed the ruthless opposition-free politics of Trinamool.”

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor