Polling in seven municipalities across West Bengal were termed as crucial as it would have an impact on state politics. Prior to the elections, BJP, Congress and CPI(M) had raised doubts whether the elections would be held in ‘free and fair’ manner claiming that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s TMC would use strong-arm tactics. Indeed, there were violence during the polling. Party supporters were seen roaming around with firearms, bombs were being hurled at polling booths and EVMs were damaged, according to Indian Express report. The report says that there were no casualties but a few people were injured.
Among the seven civic bodies, four were in Darjeeling hills. These are Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik Notified Area Authority in the Hills. Rests were Domkal in Murshidabad, Pujali in South 24-Parganas, and Raiganj in North Dinajpur. Domkal, Pujali and Raiganj witnessed the maximum number of violence, according to IE.
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According to PTI report, the overall turnout was nearly 68 per cent. Pujali registered 79.6 per cent voting, the highest out of the seven, while Darjeeling had the lowest of 52 per cent. The Congress, BJP and CPM later termed polling in Raigunj, Domkol and Pujali, as a farce and demanded a repoll. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said the Trinamool had resorted to “unprecedented violence” due to fear of defeat. “This is a dangerous situation in Bengal. The State Election Commission has become a Mamata Commission.” BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha also demanded that the elections be countermanded and fresh polls declared by the State Election Commission. “The commission should cancel today’s elections and fresh polls be held with central forces in charge of security,” the former state BJP chief was quoted as saying by PTI.
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TMC, however, had rejected all the charges. “It is the opposition parties, the Congress, CPM and BJP, which do not believe in democracy. They tried to disturb peaceful polling in the plains. In Darjeeling, let the results come in, we will see,” Partha Chatterjee, senior Trinamool leader and Education Minister said.
Local media had dubbed the elections as a perfect opportunity for BJP to cement its position as the number 2 political party in the state following its emergence under leadership Amit Shah.
The Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is the main opponent of the TMC in Darjeeling, Mirik, Kalimpong and Kurseong, where the ruling party campaigned extensively. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who frequently visits Darjeeling, has taken a keen interest in the municipal polls in the hills, which has for long seen the dominance of hill parties – the Subash Ghising-led Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) followed by Gurung’s GJM.
Raiganj in North-Dinajpur district, Domkal in Murshidabad and Pujali in South 24-Parganas in the plains are having a three-way contest with the Left-Congress combine, the BJP and the TMC being in contention.