By Ashis Biswas
As expected, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) swept the 2021 Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), the results of which were available on Tuesday afternoon. Trinamool decisively won over 90 per cent of the 144 wards. The margins separating the TMC victors from their nearest opposition challengers from the BJP, Congress and the Left parties ranged from 4000 to over 10,000 in most seats.
The position at 1.30 p.m. when counting of votes was nearing completion at Netaji indoor stadium and elsewhere was : the TMC was leading in/or won in 134 wards. the BJP in 3 , the LF and Congress in 2 each and independents in 3. With its emphatic win in this no-contest elections, the TMC retained its control over the civic body which it had won convincingly in 2015 as well.
The utter one-sidedness of the ‘contest’ was evident, again true to expectations. One example: the first announcement that Ms Purbasha Naskar, an independent who had won from 141 ward, made to her supporting voters was that she was about to join the TMC !
The TMC would announce the new Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and other office bearers in the newly elected body at a meeting on December 23, said official sources.
TMC leaders in an understandable display of triumphalism, lost no time to rub salt into the wounds of the collective opposition. Long before the formal announcement from the State Election Commission, State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee emerged from her residence to wave a victory sign to a waiting crowd of supporters and mediapersons. All TMC leaders , some reveling in their first time victory as Ms Sudarshana Mukherjee at ward 68, repeatedly thanked their constituents and the people of Kolkata for their support.
Her message about the opposition’s debacle was ‘BJP Vocatta, Congress nopatta, Bam sandwich’, an apparently pre-planned slogan hard to translate, but her followers cheered. Some began dancing and showering each other with green ‘abir’. People took out spontaneous bike processions carrying party flags in some areas. Others played dance numbers on mikes, but on the whole, the cheering was none too loud. The election outcome, said the Chief Minister would be a lesson for the rest of India.
Observers said that TMC General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee had issued strict orders to ensure that the celebrations should not get too boisterous and offend anyone. He along with Mr Firhad Hakim, former Mayor were called for a special meeting by the Chief Minister, as counting was at its last stages.
Others were in a self congratulatory mode. Said former Mayor and Minister Mr Firhad Hakim,’ Now Bengal truly belongs to us. The opposition should humbly learn from its mistakes and try to play a more supportive role, instead of criticising us.’
Even as vote percentages win by different parties were being calculated, there was some further cause for the TMC”s jubilation: the BJP apparently, having polled about 8 per cent of the aggregate votes up to 1.30 p.m. was behind the Left parties led by the CPI(M) which had won 11 per cent. This means that the victorious TMC candidates must have cornered around 74/75 per cent of the total votes at least. However the exact figures would be known later.
Most observers agreed that while the campaigning in general had been somewhat low-key, the TMC still enjoyed a big lead over other opposition parties. The CPIM) and other left parties had , like the TMC put up new faces as first time candidates. Generally they were more educated than some of their challengers. Some had participated in the special relief camps and other welfare schemes left parties had conducted for the poor people during the Corona pandemic and after natural calamities like cyclones etc.
As for the BJP, there was hardly any pre-poll campaign visible on the ground apart from the desultory movement of a few slogan shouters moving around in hired autos, carrying flags. The BJP announced its final list of candidates, 143 of them, at a very late stage, as most people expressed their reluctance to contest. Clearly the party and its activists had not recovered from their drubbing in the disastrous 2021 assembly election campaign!
It was not much different for Congress either. The party did put up posters etc in some areas, but that was about all. The Left and BJP were more active in scrawling wall slogans etc. As for the TMC whether in terms of posters, wall paintings and precessions, the party was overwhelmingly dominant in campaigning.
As for the outcome, there were no major surprises. As a newly elected TMC Councillor said ,’Given the poor shape of the opposition, we were expecting to win even more seats. We must serve the people more sincerely, as the victory margin adds to our responsibilities. The BJP should learn that unless it reached out humbly to the people and abandons its divisive policies, there will be no future for it in Bengal.’
The TMC’s ‘second generation’ of candidates all won convincingly in their respective wards. They included the sons of Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya, and ex councillor Swarna Saha, the daughter of Minister Sashi Panja, Ms Kajari Banerjee from ward 73 (Chief Minister’s sister-in-law) and others.
As for the old guard, most people won again ;TMC leaders Atin Ghosh, Hakim, Boiyshanor Chatterjee, Paresh Paul, Ram Pyare Ram , Mrs Mala Ray, Mr, Debashis Kumar, Mr Tapan Dasgupta among them.
So did Mrs Ratna Chatteree wife of former mayor Sobhan Chatterjee who did not contest .
For the BJP, the victory of Sajal Ghosh (ward 50) against difficult odds was highly satisfactory. Veteran Congressman Prakash Upadhyay however went down. So did Ms Tanima Chatterjee sister of deceased Minister Subrata Mukherjee from ward 68. Her pill was specially bitter: the TMC had initially put her up but later withdrew the nomination. She decided to contest anyway, but the official TMC candidate, as stated before, won on the day, adding to her misery. (IPA Service)