As West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee departed for a tour of North Bengal, her party Trinamool Congress (TMC) swept to power in four municipalities in the state – Siliguri, Asansol, Chandannagar and Bidhannagar – following the declaration of results on Monday. Of these, Siliguri has traditionally been a Left Front bastion, where TMC has always played second fiddle.
The margins of victory are staggering indeed. In Asansol, the TMC has won 91 of the 106 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose candidate Babul Supriyo had won the Asansol Lok Sabha seat before he switched sides and joined TMC, has won only seven seats in the municipality, while the Left and Congress have got two each.
In Bidhannagar (Salt Lake), an extension of Kolkata proper, where observers had expressed fears of pre- and post-poll violence based on the 2015 elections, the TMC has once again established total dominance, winning 39 of the 41 seats, leaving one each for the Congress and Others. In a major surprise, the BJP has drawn a complete blank here.
In Chandannagar, the ruling party has won 31 of the 32 seats, with one going to the Left. But the real surprise has been Siliguri, the gateway to hill stations like Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which has abandoned its favourite son, former Mayor and Left leader Ashok Bhattacharya, in favour of the TMC. Out of 47 seats, the TMC, which has always faltered in Siliguri, has won 37, with the BJP (four seats) a distant second. Incidentally, the BJP had swept the 2021 Assembly elections in the city, despite the TMC’s overall win. As for the Left, they have managed just four seats, too, with one going to the Congress. This clears the way for Gautam Deb, a former minister in Banerjee’s cabinet, to become the new Mayor of Siliguri.
Expectedly elated at the victory, Mamata tweeted, “It is once again an overwhelming victory of Ma, Mati, Manush. My heartiest congratulations to the people of Asansol, Bidhannagar, Siliguri & Chandanagore for having put their faith and confidence on All India Trinamool Congress candidates in the Municipal Corporation elections.”
“We are committed to carry forward our development work further with greater zeal and enthusiasm. My sincerest gratitude to Ma Mati Manush.”
Meanwhile, BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, once a frontline TMC leader before switching camps in 2020, has taken to Twitter to slam the victory, calling it a “mockery of democracy”. His tweet includes a video of allegedly false voters being confronted in a polling booth in Bidhannagar on the day of the elections, February 12.
Part of Adhikari’s reaction probably stems from the fact that in 17 of the 41 wards in Bidhannagar, TMC candidates have cornered more than 80 percent of the votes, where the TMC’s overall vote share in the municipality is 73.95 percent. Across the four municipalities, the TMC has won in 198 of the 226 seats, which translates to 88 percent of seats.
Responding to Adhikari’s accusation, Fire and Emergency Services minister and Bidhannagar MLA Sujit Basu said, “The result shows that West Bengal no longer has a credible Opposition. There’s no point making accusations. The people of Bidhannagar had indicated their preference during the Assembly elections as well. Once again today, they have voted for Mamata Banerjee.”
As she boarded her flight to North Bengal, Mamata said, “We are grateful to the people for this victory. The more we win, the more humble we must be. In the coming days, we will focus on industrialisation and employment generation. And we will restart our Duare Sarkar programme in the state from Tuesday.”