Thursday, May 22, 2008

Panchayat Polls Result 2008

Panchayat elections in West Bengal are generally a rough pointer for bigger elections. For the CPM-led Left front there was good news, and bad news for the Left is that they lost the areas under turmoil - Nandigram and Singur.

The good news for the Left is that they still hold on to nearly 75 per cent of the districts in West Bengal.

The final results are the Left front won 13 out of 17 districts, that's down two districts since the last elections, the Congress holds on to two districts - same as last time, and the Trinamool is the only party to better than last time, it won two districts this time compared to none last time.

So, while the results tend to show that the Left still hold a firm grip on 75 per cent of Bengal, the focus will be on Nandigram where even the chief minister admitted that he handled the situation badly.

There were victory celebrations by the Trinamool workers in Singur, site of the Nano factory. Similar pictures were in Nandigram where the Left Front had hoped to put up a chemical hub.

At both places the communists have been defeated. In fact, the Left has lost the entire east Midnapur district where Nandigram is located and Mamata Banerjee is rubbing it in.

''The government will be changed and it is the people's verdict. This is the beginning of the end of the CPM party. They should not go for grabbing the land of the farmers. They should take a lesson,'' said Mamata Banerji, Leader, Trinamool Congress.

Indeed, making over agricultural land for industry has cost the Left dearly not only Singur and Nandigram but also the entire South 24 Parganas district.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had virtually staked his political fortune on wooing Ratan Tata and the likes of Indonesian Beni Santoso, promising the latter swathes of land across south Bengal to build health cities, knowledge cities and an entire chemical hub.

But all that has backfired. From control of 15 out of 17 districts in the 2003 polls, the Left's tally is now down to 13.

''We have accepted the verdict of the people. Why the people have acted or reacted against us we have to go into details of the causes. Something there is wrong,'' said Benoy Kumar, CPM leader.

It will take at least another two days for the final results of the panchayat polls to come out. But one thing is clear, Singur and Nandigram have given the thumbs down to Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's policy of industrialization even at the cost of agriculture.

At least 20 people were killed in panchayat poll related violence in West Bengal in the last one week.

The Telegraph

Nandi Payback
CPM bleeds in land-and-minority backlash; loses 3 councils, gains 1

Calcutta, May 21: The Left today suffered the biggest poll jolt since the 2001 Assembly verdict as it lost two districts to Mamata Banerjee and one to the Congress in the panchayat polls, raising the question whether land acquisition for industry was exacting a heavy political cost.

Shaken though it was by the loss of Nandigram-scarred East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, the CPM announced: “There will be no going back on the policy of industrialisation.”

Murshidabad was its sole — and big — revenge on the Opposition as it won the district back from the Congress, but it had only 13 of the 17 zilla parishads (district councils) in the bag compared with 15 in 2003.

Land acquisition for industry was an issue in the two south Bengal districts of East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, though not in North Dinajpur, where the Left could not forge unity among its constituents.

In East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, both heavily minority-dominated districts, fears over losing land took a religious colour, fed by the discontent among the minorities brought out by the Sachar Committee report.

East Midnapore gained notoriety because of the prolonged violence in Nandigram over an aborted land acquisition attempt while South 24-Parganas will be the site for large projects to be built by the Indonesian Salim group.

In neighbouring North 24-Parganas, which the Salim road project will touch and where notices for land acquisition have been issued, the Left won by the thin margin of three, with Mamata’s score having soared from two to 16.

The results in West Midnapore, Burdwan, Bankura and Purulia, where too large tracts of land have been taken over for industry, are a warning against jumping to the conclusion that the panchayat verdict is a slap in the face of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s industrialisation drive.

In all four districts, the CPM has not only won but has posted huge victories, even improving on its 2003 tally in some cases. The difference, however, is that in these four districts, there was no controversy over acquiring land.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee refused comment on the results.

Benoy Konar, the CPM state secretariat member who addressed the media today instead of the party’s Bengal secretary Biman Bose, said: “It will be simplistic to infer that people voted against industrialisation. We failed to convince farmers in these two districts (East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas) where people have apprehensions about losing land.”

The apprehensions overrode expectations of benefits from the showpiece Tata small-car project at Singur, where the CPM lost all three zilla parishad seats to Trinamul. In 2003, the CPM had won the three but had lost the Assembly seat to Trinamul in 2006.

If Nandigram led to the loss of East Midnapore for the CPM, the party won Hooghly, of which Singur is a part, though not with the ease of 2003. Trinamul opened its account in the district, grabbing 11 seats.

Mamata was distributing rasogollas after the results became known, finding a reason to smile after two consecutive routs in the 2004 Lok Sabha and the 2006 Assembly polls, which halved her 2001 MLA count of 60.

Jene rakhoon, etai CPM-er sesher suru (Make no mistake, this is the beginning of the CPM’s end),” she said.

“In 2003, we had only 16 zilla parishad seats. But this time we have been able to wrest not only two zilla parishads on our own but even won over 120 zilla parishad seats.”

Mamata interpreted the results as a “mandate against state-sponsored terrorism”, but added that the people had also voiced their protest against the move to “grab farmland from the poor in the name of industrialisation”.

The chief minister can expect more trouble arising out of this conclusion for his industrialisation programme. Trinamul said it would not “allow the administration to take away an inch of land from unwilling farmers”.

Although the Congress lost Murshidabad, the victory in North Dinajpur was being seen as an achievement for Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, the Union minister who had called on Congress supporters to vote for the strongest candidate in their areas, even if it meant backing Trinamul.

If this led to an informal coming together of anti-Left forces in North Dinajpur, the Left itself was bitterly divided in the district, as it was also in South 24-Parganas.


The Statesman


Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, May 21: For the first time during its three decades of uninterrupted rule the CPI-M today suffered the worst defeat in rural Bengal, its main support base, when Nandigram, the whole of East Midnapore, Singur, South 24-Parganas and North Dinajpur voted the Marxists out giving a body blow to the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-government's controversial and audacious policy of industrialisation through farm land acquisition. The Trinamul Congress and the Congress wrested the Zilla Parishads from the CPI-M in three districts completely overshadowing the Left Front's victory in 13 districts.
Nandigram and Singur not only stood out as metaphors for the resentment in rural Bengal against the LF policy of industrialisation that spilled innocent blood on the fertile soil of East Midnapore, but spurred the agrarian community in other parts of the state to vote resoundingly against the policy that threatens to forcibly take away their only means of livelihood ~ the land ~ via an archaic colonial-era legislation. The CPI-M was shell-shocked by the defeat in Midnapore East and South 24-Parganas and its Central committee member, Mr Benoy Konar, couldn't conceal the feeling of disbelief : "Even at 8 a.m. this morning we felt we were going to win in the two districts."
The CPI-M won the North 24-Parganas Zilla Parishad by the skin of its teeth and won the ZP with a substantially reduced majority in Hooghly (home to Singur). It could just pip Congress to the post in Murshidabad, the ZP wrested from Congress strongman Mr Adhir Chowdhury who is crying foul and retained all other ZPs but most with reduced majorities. And following this pattern, panchayat samiti with 8,798 seats and gram panchayats having 41,516 seats are likely to be even worse for the Marxists. The support of the minority community for the CPI-M, too, showed severe strain. The people of Midnapore East especially the electorate of Nandigram reacted strongly against the Left Front government's policy of industrialisation through farmland acquisition and its continuous terror tactics. This is a major setback for the ruling CPI-M for the first time in the history of Left regime here. The Trinamul Congress wrested control of the East Midnapore Zilla Parishad by bagging 35 seats out of 53 Zilla Parishad seats this time. In the previous panchayat polls in 2003, the Trinamul Congress had only two seats out of 51 Zilla Parishad seats. This time, the breakup is Trinamul-35, Suci-1, CPI-M-14, CPI-2 and DSP-1.
In all four seats of Nandigram - I and II blocks, which saw violence after protests against the government's bid for land acquisition for a chemical hub, the Trinamul candidates have won the polls by defeating the CPI-M candidates including a heavyweight leader. Sheikh Sufian, a Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee leader backed by the Trinamul, defeated his rival CPI-M candidate Mr Ashok Jana by a margin of over 13,000 votes whilst Mr Pijush Bhunia, another Trinamul leader defeated Mr Ashok Bera, a CPI-M zonal committee secretary by over 21,00 votes.
Beside this success in the trouble-torn Nandigram area, the Trinamul Congress has been able to snatch a Zilla Parishad seat from Khejuri-II block, which is known as the red bastion.
Another jolt for the Left Front came in the form of South 24-Parganas where they could only win 31 out of the 73 seats in the ZP. The Trinamul made a major turnaround by winning 34 seats alone and with its alliance partner Suci bagging five seats, the two parties look set to form the Zilla Parishad. The Congress grabbed three seats. During the last election, the LF had won 61 seats in the 66-seat ZP.
In North 24-Parganas, the Left Front managed to scrape through in the 51-seat Zilla Parishad by winning 27 seats. During the last polls, the Left Front had bagged 49 seats. The Trinamul Congress, which emerged as the main Opposition party here, secured 18 seats and the Congress bagged eight seats. The Trinamul got most of the seats in Bongaon, Bashirhat and Barasat subdivisions. Mr Kamal Das, Trinamul district secretary in North 24-Parganas, claimed that Trinamul would have gained absolute majority in the Zilla Parishad had the CPI-M not resorted to large-scale rigging in the polls.
The Left Front secured 36 out of 47 ZP seats in Hooghly, while the Trinamul bagged the remaining 11, including three seats from Singur. In 2003, the CPI-M had wrested all the 47 ZP seats in Hooghly. The CPI-M district leaders said the "malicious campaign" against the CPI-M over the Tapasi Malik murder case resulted in their defeat in Singur.
Meanwhile, the only gain for the Left Front came in the form of Murshidabad, where they secured 32 seats following a close fight with the Congress, which bagged 31 seats in the 63-seat ZP. In the 2003 panchayat polls, the Congress had won 33 seats in
the 60-member ZP while the LF bagged the remaining 27 seats. Congress MP, Mr Adhir Chowdhury alleged that CPI-M sponsored terror in Domkal, Hariharpara, Jalangi and some other blocks of the districts resulted in low turnout, which led to their defeat.
The Congress salvaged its fortunes in North Dinajpur by taking control of the ZP. The Congress bagged 15 ZP seats, the CPI-M won in eight and the Forward Bloc one to complete the tally of 24 ZP seats. Both the outgoing sabhadhipati and saha sabhadhipati of the CPI-M led North Dinajpur ZP, Mrs Jyotsnarani Singh and Mr Ashok Singh respectively were defeated by Congress candidates. Mrs Singh held the disunity in the Left Front responsible for her defeat. “We had no adjustment either with the Forward Bloc or West Bengal Socialist Party in the places where we lost,” she said.
In Malda, the Congress retained the ZP by winning and finally bagged 18 Zilla Parishad seats out of 34 ones. In 2003, Congress had won 15 seats out of 33 and formed the board with the help of the BJP and Trinamul. The LF has bagged only 15 seats.
In Nadia, the Opposition managed to snatch nine seats from the LF this time. While the Congress bagged five seats, Trinamul got six, leaving the LF with the remaining 34 seats in the 45 seat ZP. Last time around, the Opposition had managed to grab only three seats. In Howrah too, the Opposition dented the LF seat count. The LF won in 25 seats, while the Trinamul bagged 10 seats and the Congress a lone seat in the 36 seat ZP. Last time around the LF had won 33 out of the 34 seat ZP.
The Left Front also suffered a minor setback in Birbhum, losing nine ZP seats, mainly in the minority dominated areas. In a 35-seat ZP, the LF captured 26 seats, while the Congress wrested seven seats and the Trinamul and the BJP bagged one seat each. Last time, the Opposition had bagged only four seats in the ZP.
The LF has retained all the ZP seats in Bankura except one. In 2003 the Trinamul had snatched one seat. This time the lone opponent victory went in favour of the Jharkhand Party (Aditya). In Burdwan, the LF bagged 64 out of the 67 seats in the ZP. While two seats went to the Trinamul, the Congress grabbed one seat. In Midnapore West, the LF retained the ZP by winning 57 out of the 62 seats.
In Purulia, CPI-M retained the ZP by winning 30 seats while the Congress won the remaining 5 seats in the 35 seat ZP. Minister of state for forest, Mrs Bilasi Bala Sahis won her ZP seat here by a margin of 4,533 votes. One short from its previous tally of 10 seats in the South Dinajpur ZP, the LF stamped its authority in South Dinajpur by winning 15 seats out of the 17 seat ZP. The Congress and the Trinamul Congress bagged one each. In Cooch Behar, the LF bagged 27 seats while the Congress and Trinamul bagged one seat each. Despite an internal feud, the LF retained the Jalpaiguri ZP by winning 32 out of the 34 ZP seats. Two seats went to the Congress.

Q The Statesman: The Panchayat Polls will be a referendum on your industrialisation you agree?
CM: Yes. And the verdict will be overwhelmingly in favour. [9 May, at a Press meet in Kolkata]

My Only comment on the results is that I have no comment

~Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on 21 May, after the panchayat poll verdict

The Hindu

Left Front sweeps zilla parishad polls in West Bengal
Special Correspondent
Setback in Nandigram, Singur

Retains Hooghly zilla parishad

Makes inroads in Murshidabad

KOLKATA: The ruling Left Front swept the zilla parishad elections in West Bengal, winning in 13 out of the 17 bodies, but failed to retain control in three. The Congress and the Trinamool Congress with its allies won in two each.

The Left parties suffered major setbacks in both Nandigram and Singur.

The elections were held early this month along with the polls for panchayat samitis and gram panchayats.

Nandigram and Singur have been in the spotlight following unrest in the wake of the movement by the Trinamool-led Opposition against acquisition of farmland for setting up industries.

Apparently, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s decision to drop the plan to set up a chemical hub in the Nandigram area early last year, following protests, was not enough to ensure a Left Front victory of the seats in the Purbo Medinipur zilla parishad. This loss resonated in other parts of the district too and the Trinamool wrested control of the civic body for the first time.

Despite the jolt in the Singur area — the site of the Tata Motors project — the Left Front retained control of the zilla parishad in Hooghly.

It also made significant inroads in Murshidabad district, considered a Congress stronghold, and won the zilla parishad.

Another major outcome was the Left Front losing majority in the zilla parishad in South 24 Parganas district — the scene of clashes between supporters of the CPI(M) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party on the poll day. The Trinamool along with its allies emerged victorious in the district.

The Congress wrested the zilla parishad in North Dinajpur from the Left Front. The party retained its sway over the civic body in Malda district, despite the stiff fight put up by the Left.

The Left Front registered thumping majorities in the zilla parishads in Bankura, Burdwan Jalpaiguri, Birbhum, Purulia, Cooch Behar and South Dinajpur.

It retained control of the zilla parishads in Nadia, Paschim Medinipur and Howrah as well as in North 24 Parganas though the Trinamool made some substantial gains there.