West Bengal panchayat election results: Re-polling at 568 panchayat polling booths across 19 districts in the state ended on Wednesday. (Express photo by Shubham Dutta)
The West Bengal panchayat election results will be declared on Thursday. While there is no doubt that the TMC is bound to maintain its grip over the rural bodies, it remains to be seen if BJP is able to up its vote share from the three per cent it got in 2013 elections and whether the CPI(M) can turn a corner in a state it ruled for 34 years.
Re-polling at 568 panchayat polling booths across 19 districts in the state ended on Wednesday after opposition parties approached the State Election Commission citing the violence and booth rigging that marred the gram panchayat elections on Monday, which saw a voter turnout of 73 per cent. The re-polling on Wednesday saw a 68 per cent turnout. At least 14 people were reported to have been killed and many injured, mainly in North and South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad, East Midnapore and South Dinajpur, as reports of polling booths being targetted and captured, vandalising of ballot boxes and crude bombs being hurled poured in throughout the day.
On Wednesday, the Union home ministry asked the West Bengal government to provide a second detailed report on the violence during the polls after it found the initial report sent by the Mamata Banerjee-led government “sketchy”.
When will the counting of votes start?
The counting of votes for gram panchayat elections will take place on May 17 and the process will start at 7 am. Since, the elections took place through ballot papers and not EVMs, the counting of votes will be a tardy process and the final result can be expected only by late evening.
How many seats are in the fray?
Elections were held in 622 zila parishads and 6,158 panchayat samitis, besides 31,836 gram panchayats of the state. This is because 16,814 gram panchayat seats, 3,059 panchayat samiti seats and 203 zila parishad were uncontested. Trinamool candidates were elected unopposed in 34 per cent of seats. However, the Supreme Court has directed the SEC not to declare them as winners until further orders. In the last 40 years, there have been only two occasions when the number of uncontested seats crossed 10 per cent — 2003 (11 per cent) and 2013 (10.66 per cent).
Why was re-polling ordered on Wednesday?
The West Bengal state Election Commission (SEC) on Tuesday ordered re-polling at 568 panchayat polling booths across 19 districts in the state. Opposition parties demanded re-polling at over 500 booths following the deaths of at least 14 people in violence during the polls on Monday. The incidents of violence and loot of ballot boxes were reported from other places also.
Re-polling was held at 73 booths in North Dinajpur district, 63 in Murshidabad, 60 in Nadia, 59 in North 24 Parganas, 55 in Malda and 52 in Cooch Behar. In South 24 Parganas, East Midnapore and South Dinajpur districts, re-polling will be held at 26, 23 and 35 booths, respectively. Jhargram is the only district where no re-polling took place.
What happened on election day?
About 14 people were reported to have been killed and many injured on Monday during the election process. Two CPI(M) party workers were killed in Nandigram Block-2 in East Midnapore, when miscreants hurled bombs outside a polling booth. The charred bodies of two CPI(M) candidates, Debu Das and Uma Das, were recovered from their house in South 24 Parganas. A TMC supporter was killed when a bomb was hurled outside a polling station in Kultali, in South 24 Parganas. In other incidents of violence, 15 people were injured in a clash outside a polling booth in Nandigram.
Following the widespread clashes, the Home Ministry had sought a detailed report on the circumstances leading to the violence and the steps taken to restore peace and punish those involved in the ruckus.
What happened in the 2013 panchayat elections?
Currently, the TMC controls 90 per cent of the Panchayat seats, apart from all the Zilla Parishads of the state. In the 2013 panchayat elections, BJP received a meagre three per cent votes after fielding only 9,000 candidates.