West Bengal's ruling TMC gained control of the 144-member Kolkata Municipal Corporation on Tuesday clinching nearly 72 per cent of votes, in a ringing endorsement for the party seven months after its landslide win in the state assembly polls.
Mamata Banerjee's party won 132 seats and was all set to pocket two more to post a hat-trick of wins, decimating a frail challenge from the opposition BJP, the Left Front and the Congress, officials said.
The BJP, which lost much of its steam after the assembly poll defeat, managed to win just three wards, a senior State Election Commission official said. The Congress and the CPI(M)-led Left Front bagged two wards each, and Independents three.
The Left Front, despite the mauling, finished second to the TMC in terms of vote share.
Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who has been trying to expand her party's footprint beyond her native state, saw in the victory a leg-up for her national ambitions.
"I want to dedicate this triumph to the people of the state and 'Maa, Mati, Manush' (mother, land and people - TMC slogan for many years). Several national parties like the BJP, Congress, and CPI(M) fought against us, but they were all defeated. This is a victory of a daughter of the soil. This victory will show the way in national politics in days to come," a visibly pleased Banerjee told reporters outside her residence.
The TMC had swept all the 16 assembly segments in the city in the assembly polls and the BJP was its main challenger. The saffron party was second after the TMC in the assembly elections in all the wards constituting the 16 seats in terms of vote share.
Riding the momentum of its massive victory in the state polls and the recent UNESCO 'Intangible Heritage' tag for Kolkata's Durga Puja, the TMC bagged about three-fourths of the votes polled.
The TMC bagged 71.95 per cent of the votes polled, whereas the Left Front and the BJP bagged 11.13 and 8.94 per cent each. The Congress clinched 4.47 per cent of the votes and Independents 3.25 per cent.
The TMC got 22 per cent votes more than the 2015 KMC polls and increased its vote share by 11 per cent compared to the April-May assembly elections.
The BJP, which garnered six per cent less votes compared to the last KMC polls, saw a sharp decline of 20 per cent vote share compared to the assembly polls in the KMC area seven months back, when it had bagged 29 per cent votes.
Although the Left lost the chief opposition status to BJP in the KMC in terms of number ofseats won, it got a bigger share of the electoral pie by way of votes than the saffron camp, and bagged seven per cent more votes than what it had polled in the Assembly elections. The Left's vote share, however, was 13 per cent less than the last KMC polls.
Several high profile candidates of the TMC, including former Mayor Firhad Hakim, former deputy mayor Atin Ghosh, and others like Mala Roy, Debashis Kumar, Tarak Singh, Paresh Pal, won by impressive margins.
The highest victory margin was recorded by TMC candidate Faiz Ahmed Khan in ward no 66. He won by a whopping 62,045 votes, followed by TMC's Ananya Banerjee, who emerged victorious by a margin of 37,661 votes from ward no 109.
Kajari Banerjee, the sister-in-law of Mamata Banerjee, also won from ward no 73.
BJP's sitting councillor and former deputy mayor Mina Devi Purohit won for the sixth consecutive time.
TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee also thanked the people of Kolkata for the "huge mandate".
"People of Kolkata have once again proven that politics of HATE & VIOLENCE have NO PLACE in BENGAL! I thank everyone for blessing us with such a huge mandate. We are truly humbled and shall always remain committed in our goals towards YOUR BETTERMENT! Thank you Kolkata," he tweeted.
Senior party leader and former Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim described it as victory of the party's developmental work in the last decade in the city.
"Our development efforts since 2010 was enough to ensure this victory. Right now, we will focus on improved civic services including environmental issues. We will strive to make the city Covid-free in the near future," Hakim, a minister in the Banerjee cabinet, said.
The BJP, however, termed the results a reflection of the "reign of terror" that the TMC has unleashed. "This result was expected because free and fair polls didn't take place in the absence of central forces," BJP leader Shamik Bhattacharya said.
However, senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty saw a silver lining in the results as in most of the wards, "the Left has emerged the main opposition." Had the elections been fair, our results would have been much better," he said.
Over 63 per cent of the nearly 40.5 lakh voters had exercised their franchise on Sunday.
The TMC has been in power in KMC since 2010. In the last KMC polls in 2015, it had won 124 seats, whereas the Left Front bagged 13. The BJP and the Congress had secured five and two seats, respectively.
The newly elected TMC councillors will meet on December 23 to elect the city's next mayor.
In the 145-year history of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, nationalist leaders like Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Bidhan Chandra Roy, also a former chief minister, graced the mayor's chair in pre-Independent India. Hakim was the first Muslim mayor of the city since Independence.
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