The ruling Trinamool Congress on Friday registered a thumping victory in elections to the three-tier rural bodies in West Bengal, with the BJP emerging a distant second in almost all the districts as the final round of counting of votes was underway.
The Left Front, which ruled the state for 34 years till 2011, was relegated to third position, while the Congress was virtually wiped out in Monday's polls, marred by widespread violence and allegations of strong-arm tactics and irregularities against the Trinamool.
As per reports received till 5 p.m., the ruling party had won 21,110 Gram Panchayat seats out of 31,814 that were contested, while it was leading in 29 seats.
The TMC won 4,888 of the 6,125 contested Panchayat Samiti seats, capturing more than 80 per cent of the total, and were comfortably ahead in another 30.
The Trinamool Congress also won 20 Zila Parishads by registering victory in 589 seats out of the total 622.
She said many winning independent and BJP candidates had got in touch with her party to switch sides.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which managed to bag 5,747 seats in Gram Panchayats, 756 in Panchayat Samitis and 23 in Zila Parishads, gave a tough fight to the Trinamool in the western districts of Purulia and Jhargram.
Interestingly, independents bagged more seats than the Left Front candidates.
In South 24 Parganas district's Bhangar, on the boil over construction of a power grid sub-station by the state government, independent candidates backed by Jomi-Jibika-Bastutantra O Poribesh Rokkha Committee (committee for protecting life, livelihood, ecology and environment) won five of the eight Gram Panchayat seats.
The Panchayat Samiti was, however, won by ruling party strongman Arabul Islam, who was arrested a day before the election for his alleged involvement in the murder of a youth.
BJP state President Dilip Ghosh said his party was moving on the right track and claimed that the people of Jangalmahal (western districts which have large forest tracts) have given a firm reply to the ruling party.
"The situation for the people of Jungalmahal has not changed. They are still struggling but Mamata Banerjee repeatedly claims that 'Jangalmahal is smiling'. People have given a strong reply to this propaganda," Ghosh told the reporters here.
On Banerjee's claims that BJP winners have contacted the Trinamool, Ghosh said: "She does not keep in touch even with her own party people. How can she be in touch with the BJP winners? In reality, many of the TMC Ministers and candidates are in contact with us."
After sporadic violence on Thursday, counting on Friday remained largely peaceful.
Statistics reveal that of the total 58,692 seats in the three tiers, 20,076 seats, or 34.2 per cent, have been decided uncontested, with the Trinamool bagging a whopping proportion of these seats.
These include 16,814 of the total 48,650 Gram Panchayats seats, 3,059 of the 9,217 Panchayat Samiti seats and 203 of the 825 Zila Parishad seats.
The Supreme Court asked the SEC not to issue winning certificates in these seats.
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