West Bengal: Parties bracing for popularity test in municipal polls
The upcoming polls to the newly- formed Asansol and Bidhannagar municipal corporations in West Bengal are set to be a test of popularity for the political parties in the state ahead of next year's Assembly elections.
Kolkata: The upcoming polls to the newly- formed Asansol and Bidhannagar municipal corporations in West Bengal are set to be a test of popularity for the political parties in the state ahead of next year's Assembly elections.
The elections will be held on October 3 and the results are to be announced on October 16.
The contest, which will be a four-cornered one with Trinamool Congress, CPI-M, BJP and Congress as the key players, holds immense political significance as it will be the last polls before the Assembly elections in April-May next year.
The ruling TMC, which had registered a massive victory in the last municipal and KMC elections in April, is looking to inflict a whitewash on opponent parties.
The party said it is looking for a full tally in the Bidhannagar and Asansol municipalities, which have 41 and 106 seats, respectively.
The Asansol municipal corporation was formed by merging Raniganj, Jamuria and Kulti municipalities while the Bidhannagar corporation was constituted by merging Bidhannagar and Rajarhat-Gopalpur municipalities.
"We are not only confident about victory. We are eyeing an whitewash by winning all seats in Bidhannagar corporation.
"People will vote in favour of the development work that TMC had done during its tenure in Bidhannagar municipality, when it had not been merged with Rajarhat-Gopalpur," state food supplies minister and TMC North 24 parganas district president, Jyotipriyo Mullick, told PTI.
Although TMC has been on top in every poll in Bengal since its historic win in the 2011 Assembly elections, the Lok Sabha polls last year had seen the party take a beating in several wards at the hands of BJP in Bidhannagar despite clinching the Barasat Lok Sabha Constituency, under which Bidhannagar and Rajarahat-Gopalpur fall.
Although the TMC-led state government has termed the formation of the municipal corporation a necessity to get more funds from the Centre, the move is being seen as a ploy in some quarters as Rajarhat-Gopalpur has been a bastion of the TMC with sizeable minority votes.
Apart from BJP's rise in various wards, another factor that TMC has to deal with is factional fights between various groups of TMC in Rajarahat-Gopalpur and Bidhannagar.
The seriousness of the infighting issue can be gauged from the fact that TMC Supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself had conducted a meeting with various TMC groups led by MLA Sujit Bose, MLA Sabyasachi Dutta, and Tapas Chatterjee, a CPI(M) leader who had recently switched over to Trinamool.
CPI-M, which appears to be on the path of recovery
following back-to-back "successful" political programmes last month, too, has high stakes in the Bidhannagar municipal polls and has pitched former state finance minister Asim Dasgupta as the mayoral candidate for Bidhannagar.
The good response that the Left party's candidates are receiving during campaigning has infused fresh vigour into the party leadership with some exuding confidence that a free and fair polls will result in the victory of the Left Front.
"If the polls are held in a free and fair manner, then no one can stop the Left from winning Bidhannagar," said CPI(M) state secretariat member Rabin Deb.
BJP, which had high hopes in Bidhannagar after its showing in last year's Lok Sabha polls, seems to have lost steam due to an apparent lack of leadership and infighting. Allegations by political opponents of an understanding with the ruling TMC seem to have begun to take a toll on the outfit in the key eastern state.
However, BJP state president Rahul Sinha, who has been accused by a section of party workers of not working hard enough as state president, had put up a brave face and stated that free and fair elections would ensure a good performance by BJP candidates.
Congress, too, has put up candidates, but is not in a position to offer a fight except in a few wards.
In Asansol, an industrial-coal belt where BJP had taken a lead in several wards in last year's Lok Sabha polls, the tide ahead of the municipal corporation elections seems to be in favour of TMC with opposition parties in disarray.
"We are hopeful we will do well in Asansol as Jamuria and Raniganj are our bastions. But all depends on whether the polls will be be free and fair," Deb, meanwhile, said.
BJP, which had high expectations in Asansol, seems to be losing ground due to infighting within the state unit.
The BJP MP from Asansol and MoS for Urban Development, Babul Supriyo, while releasing the list of candidates, had said, "We may not be able to make everyone happy but this list has been prepared after looking into all aspects."