Friday, May 23, 2008

Panchayat Polls Result (II)

The Statesman


Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, May 22: The CPI-M's domination of rural Bengal has been shaken far too deeply than what became apparent yesterday as results of the remaining two-tiers of the panchayati raj system ~ the Panchayat Samities (PS) and the Gram Panchayats (GP) ~ unfolded throughout the day today.
If yesterday's gloomy outcome of the Zilla Parishad (ZP) seats had a silver lining for the Marxists, who managed to retain 13 of the 17 districts after losing out two crucial ZPs to the Trinamul Congress, the results of the samitis during the day revealed the CPI-M's grip over the rural population has alarmingly loosened with the Trinamul and other Opposition parties notching up 137 against the LF's tally of 187.
The LF is down by 30 per cent compared to 2003 when it won 285 samities, while the Trinamul scored the maximum gain at the cost of the CPI-M largely increasingly its tally of a meagre 12 samities in the 2003 poll. In the ZPs the LF suffered a loss of 17.6 per cent seats compared to what it had won the last time.
Far worse appears to be in store for the CPI-M as the results of the 41,516 Gram Panchayat seats trickle in. Already, the Trinamul and the Congress surged far ahead of the LF in the Gram Panchayats of North 24-Parganas, Nadia and Howrah. The cracks in the three traditional red bastions are so frightening that the Trinamul and the Congress accounted for 129 GPs against the LF's 46 in Nadia which has a total 187 GPs, while in North 24-Parganas, the Trinamul bagged 141 GPs against the LF's 42 out of a total of 200. The LF's drubbing in the Howrah GP polls is equally sensational with the Opposition winning 105 GPs against the LF's 46 with six others showing tie.
The LF, of course, swept the polls in Birbhum where it won 102 GPs against the Trinamul's tally of 57 out of a total 167 GPs. Results show tie in three GPs and hung in five.
As the extent of the CPI-M's loss of control of the rural vote bank became clearer by every hour, the Marxist leadership was at its wit's end. The CPI-M state secretary, Mr Biman Bose, lost his cool and left the Press conference in a huff without answering media query on the party's unforeseen loss of the samitis. “I have already told you we need to examine the results in detail before we can reach any conclusion. I won't answer meaningless questions,” he said and stomped out. On the other hand, Trinamul Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee was ecstatic, though she was cautious in explaining the significance of her party's victory.
“We have won just two Zilla Parishads. But the people are voting for us in a much bigger way in the samities and GPs. Even where we have lost in the ZPs we would have the controlling powers there as we are gaining more samitis than the CPI-M and its partners. The functioning of the ZPs depends on the strength of the samities," she said.
It became increasingly clear how the rot has set in in the CPI-M. The rural population that looked upon the Marxists as champions of the poor became disillusioned by the rank corruption that a large number of panchayat functionaries belonging to the CPI-M indulged in over the years.
Even if the rural poor had all these years been tolerating the loot of public exchequer by influential panchayat functionaries of the ruling combine and smuggling of foodgrain meant for the ration shops into the open market, the ultimate betrayal came when the Marxists embarked on their pet industrialisation policy that threatened to rob the poor of their sole means of livelihood ~ small plots of land ~ to help the industrialists.

Why Nadia, Howrah & N 24-Pgns dealt such a blow to LF

Statesman News Service
KOLKATA/KRISHNAGAR, May 22: If the Zilla Parishad results had jolted the Left Front yesterday, more embarrassment was in store for it today when it fared miserably in the fight for Panchayat Samities and Gram Panchayats in the three districts ~ Nadia, Howrah and North 24-Parganas, where the Front had gained majority in the Zilla Parishad.
The worst result for the Left Front in Panchayat Samities came from Nadia where it only managed to win two out of 17 samities. The Trinamul Congress here bagged nine while the Congress won six Panchayat Samities. In 2003, the Left exercised control over 12 Panchayat Samities. The Left had yesterday bagged 34 seats in the 45 seat Zilla Parishad, while the Congress and the Trinamul won five and six seats respectively. So, what made the tables turn?
Political analysis by different parties, point out to one basic reason. The disunity among the Left Front partners in the lower tiers of the panchayat coupled with growing Opposition unity. Something that was not evident in the fight for the Zilla Parishad, helping the Left sail through.
Mr Ashu Ghosh, Nadia district CPI-M secretary, said: "I think that the Opposition alliance did work in the polls and we had some organisational faults that led to our defeat in the samities. We will discuss the poll results in our 24 May board meeting."
In the Gram Panchayats, among 187 total panchayats, trends show that the Opposition that includes the Trinamul and the Congress have already won 129 seats, leaving the Left with just 46 seats.
In Howrah too, the Left suffered a body-blow at both Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat levels. The Left managed only four out of the 14 Panchayat Samities. The Trinamul bagged eight seats here while there's a tie in two seats. The reversal of fortunes has baffled the district CPI-M leadership as they had captured the Zilla Parishad yesterday by winning 25 seats out of the 36 seats in the parishad.
"The unity of the Opposition and the infighting among two factions within the CPI-M led to the surprising result in panchayat samities and gram panchayats in Howrah," said a Trinamul leader. In the 157 Gram Panchayats here, the Left managed only 46 against the Opposition’s 105 while the results for six are tied.
In North 24-Parganas, where the Left had literally scraped through to take the Zilla Parishad by winning 27 seats out of a total 51, the Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat results has come as a rude shock to them. They only managed four out of 22 Panchayat Samities and gained control over just 42 out of the 200 Gram Panchayats in the district. The Trinamul here bagged 15 Panchayat Samities and 141 Gram Panchayats.
District leaders say that two primary reasons were behind this. "The Opposition managed to put up a one-to-one fight against us in the panchayat samities and the gram panchayats, which they failed to do in most of the ZP seats. That could be the reason why we lost," said a senior district CPI-M leader.
The Trinamul had another reason. "In the large scale rigging engineered by the CPI-M, voters brought in by them only stamped the ZP ballot, but neglected to stamp on the Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat ballots," a Trinamul leader said.

Hindustan Times

Riot-torn Nandigram and Singur deal heaviest blows

Tremor after tremor rocked the CPI-M headquarters on Alimuddin Street, as poll results confirmed that both Nandigram and Singur had dealt the Marxists a blow in the 2008 panchayat elections.

It was the people’s referendum on Wednesday against the CPM and Left Front government’s policy to forcibly acquire agricultural land for industries that had led to bloody land battles here and had rocked the nation.

The Nandigram blow resulted in the CPM losing control of the East Midnapore Zilla Parishad. However, the party managed to retain the zilla parishad in Hooghly district, and restrict the Singur damage to the three zilla parishad seats within the Singur Block.

“This is the people’s victory and it marks the beginning of the end for the CPM. Despite terrorising the people in Nandigram, those who voted sealed the fate of the CPM,” said Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

Out of the 53 zilla parishad seats, the Trinamool won 36 and the Left Front 17. “This is a fitting reply to the CPM, which used police and cadres to kill us and forcibly acquire lands for the chemical hub,” said Trinamool MLA Suvendu Adhikari.

If the proposal for a chemical hub in Nandigram dug the CPM’s grave in East Midnapore, it was the land acquisition for the Tata Motors small car plant at Singur that cost the party heavily there. In Nandigram and Singur, the CPM also took a heavy beating in the panchayat samity and gram panchayat seats.

“I am very happy with the outcome in Nandigram,” said PCC chief Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi.

In South 24 Parganas, the decision to acquire land for infrastructure and industrial projects for the Salem Group as well as infighting did the CPM in.

Out of the 73 zilla parishad seats here, the Left Front won 33 seats. But Opposition forces such as the Congress, Trinamool and SUCI won two, 31 and five seats respectively.

“People misunderstood us. And perhaps we failed to convince them that we would not acquire land forcibly and without proper compensation. But we had little time to control the damage,” said CPM central committee member Shyamal Chakrabarty. “We knew we had a tough fight on our hands. The media has harmed us.”

With barely eight months to go for the next Lok Sabha polls, Alimuddin Street will likely put a stop to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s move to acquire land for new projects.


CPM turns red after resounding polls defeat

Kolkata: The West Bengal panchayat poll results are out and the CPM has lost out in Singur and Nandigram.

Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has won all zila parishad seats in Nandigram, Haldia and Singur.

The cracks in the Red fortification are showing.

For the first time in two decades, the CPM has lost the zila parishad elections in Singur and Nandigram, the two regions that witnessed protests against the state government’s land acquisition for industrial projects.

The Trinamul Congress has swept all four seats in Nandigram and all three in Singur. The opposition even managed to wrest the entire East Midnapore zila parishad from the Left Front and inflict major losses on the CPM in its fortresses of Haldia and Khejuri.

“There was so much violence but revenge couldn't be sweeter - ballots won against bullets,“ said Trinamul Congress chief, Mamata Banerjee.

For the CPM, it was a rare moment of introspection.

“Till late this morning we were sure of our win, now we realise we failed to understand peoples' hearts,” said CPI-M leader, Benoy Konar.

The CPM has also lost North Dinajpur and South 24 Parganas, which went to the Congress and Trinamul Congress respectively. The Congress believes the results have some lessons for the fractured Opposition.

"Even the opposition, they should take some lesson from this result. If we are able to fight jointly, we can get much better result,” said Congress leader Subrata Mukherjee.

In other districts, the Left domination was complete. But with Lok Sabha elections just a year away, the set-backs in Singur and Nandigram might just force the Left to do a re-think on its policy of industrialisation.

It's a historic mandate, a resounding no to both the CPM's manner of handling the issue of industrialisation and the discontent it managed to infiltrate among the affected rural folk.

With several industrial projects in pipeline, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his government would be forced to tread cautiously before implementing its policies, for the first time in three-and-a-half decades.

The Times of India

Intra-Left bickering led to CPM's loss

22 May

KOLKATA: In a clear thumbs down to CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s industrial police, Singur voters gave CPM a drubbing in all three zilla parishad seats.

Take the original route of land acquisition by Salim Group, right from Haldia to Baruipur via Bhangar, Sonarpur.

It holds true for Dankuni, where a mega township was planned. The township area comes under Chanditala, where the government was to start buying off farmlands after the panchayat polls. CPM lost the Chanditala zilla parishad seat.

However, despite its emblematic losses, CPM still controls much of rural Bengal with results showing the party grabbing 457 of the 748 zilla parishad seats so far. Left partners have won 62 seats. Full results are expected on Thursday.

Tension has been building up for sometime. Even Left Front partners - Forward Bloc and RSP - had gone hammer and tongs against Bhattacharjee's taking over agricultural lands.

The bitter intra-Front bickering on crucial policy issues led to a division of votes in the Left camp while the opposition remained united at the grassroots.

Over and above, the observations of Justice Rajinder Sachar panel on the plight of the minorities in West Bengal added fuel to the fire.

Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind’s Siddiqullah Chowdhury, who was in the forefront of the anti-industrialization campaign in Nandigram, reached out to all these places trying to consolidate the Muslim vote against CPM.

The dissent spread to areas close to Kolkata, where landowners, mostly Muslims, were afraid of losing out their land to make way for industry.

Farmers reacted by voting out CPM from East Midnapore, South 24 Parganas and North Dinajpur zilla parishads, the uppermost tier in the panchayat system. The Left Front could barely scrape through in North 24 Parganas.

Trinamool got a fresh lease of life coming to power in East Midnapore and South 24 Parganas and also made impressive dents in the red bastions before the LS polls.

Murshidabad turned out to be the only consolation for the CPM-led Front that wrested the zilla parishad from Congress strongman and MP, Adhir Chowhdury.

Congress, instead, won the North Dinajpur zilla parishad and retained Malda. The only exception was Burdwan and parts of West Midnapore and Purulia, where CPM maintained its sway despite land acquisition in Durgapur, and Salbani in West Midnapore.

CPM's arrogance in Nandigram and the way Seth was trying to stifle popular opinion was an added factor for the rout.

But CPM isn't dumping land acquisition plans despite the setback. ‘‘True, we were not prepared for the results in East Midnapore and South 24 Parganas. But the reverses have nothing to do with land acquisition or the Sachar panel.

If that was true then the Left Front couldn’t have won Murshidabad zilla parishad.. The government will continue with land acquisition for industry because that will ultimately help the farmers,’’ said senior CPM state secretariat member, Benoy Konar.

Thaindian News

West Bengal CPI-M blames ‘malicious campaign’ for defeat

Kolkata, May 21 (IANS) With its hold slipping in four West Bengal districts, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Wednesday blamed its defeat in the elections to the state’s local self-government bodies on a “malicious campaign” against it launched by opposition parties. “Our defeat in four West Bengal districts is due to the malicious campaign launched by the opposition and vested interests,” said senior CPI-M leader and party spokesperson Shyamal Chakraborty.

“I think, in East Midnapore district, and particularly Nandigram, we failed to convince the people about the need for industrialisation and our government’s good intentions. We could not reach out to the masses with our industrialisation drive that we started in West Bengal. The opposition has succeeded in hoodwinking the people,” he added.

For the first time in 30 years, the Left Front lost control of the East Midnapore Zilla Parishad - the top tier of the state’s three-tier panchayat system. The front was also routed at Nandigram, located in the district.

He said the party would do an in-depth review of the panchayat poll results.

Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee termed her party’s performance in the panchayat polls as a victory of democratic and peace-loving people over the atrocities committed by CPI-M goons with active support of the state machinery.

“We won in three out of four Zilla Parishad seats in Nandigram. If there was a clean and fair election there, we could have won in all the seats in Nandigram,” she said.

“With the result of panchayat election in Nandigram block-I and II, villagers have shown they don’t support the ruling Left Front in West Bengal,” Banerjee said.

The Nandigram region saw violence after protests against the government’s abortive bid for land acquisition for a chemical hub. The Trinamool Congress, which spearheaded the agitation in Nandigram, made a clean sweep in the area.

The panchayat polls results seemed to have opened fresh fissures in the Left Front, with the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) blaming big brother CPI-M for bending to industrialists.

“They are following the capitalist path. This election should serve as a warning to the CPI-M that development of people cannot be confused with the development of Tatas and Salims,” said senior RSP leader Manoj Bhattacharya.