Opposition pips Left in West Bengal civic polls

July 2nd, 2008 - 10:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, July 2 (IANS) All is not well for the Left parties in their West Bengal citadel with voters in small towns following their rural counterparts by snubbing them in the civic polls, results of which were announced Wednesday. Of the 13 municipalities which went to the hustings June 29, the opposition bagged eight, while the Front had to be content with winning only in five.

About six weeks after the state’s Left Front government saw a massive erosion in its rural stronghold with the opposition wresting three zila parishads, the ruling alliance lost control of four municipalities, which it had won last time, in the state Wednesday.

Main opposition Trinamool Congress was the major gainer as it snatched Guskara, Habra and Medinipur municipalities from the front, while the Congress unseated the ruling coalition in Dalkhola.

The Congress and the Trinamool won four civic bodies each.

In the previous elections to these municipalities in 2003, the Trinamool had won only in Diamond Harbour, while the Congress formed the board in Alipurduar, Haldibari and Dubrajpur.

For the Left Front, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the biggest jolt came in Guskara in Burdwan district, which is considered one of its strongest bases.

The erosion in the front’s support base was spread across the state, from Dalkhola in the northern part of the state, to Habra and Midnapore in the south, indicating the voters’ growing disenchantment with the Left government, which has had an uninterrupted 31-year reign in the state.

The results also opened up possibilities of the Trinamool and the Congress to come together in forming the boards in two of the civic bodies. The Congress, despite finishing as the largest party in Dubrajpur (Birbhum district) and Alipurduar (in Jalpaiguri district of North Bengal), needs the Trinamool’s support to come to power.

Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee asserted her party would provide support to the Congress if it sought its help. “We will do everything to keep the CPI-M away from power,” she said.

Pradesh Congress president Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said his party would also cooperate with the Trinamool if it asked for support in forming boards. “If the Trinamool does not have a problem, we are game (for it),” he said.

The results also must have gladdened Dasmunsi, with Congress romping home at Dalkhola in his pocket borough of Uttar Dinajpur.

CPI-M, on the other hand, admitted that it had not foreseen such a poor showing. “We didn’t expect such a result,” said party MP Sudhangshu Sil.

The poor results came despite the front managing to put up a united show, except at Mekhliganj in Cooch Behar district, where the Forward Bloc retained the board by putting up four independents who defeated CPI-M’s candidates.

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