The ruling Trinamool Congress has scripted a resounding victory in the West Bengal rural polls bagging more than 85 per cent of the seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party came a distant second, emerging as the main opposition in the state.
Results of the panchayat polls have not only reaffirmed the TMC's hold over rural Bengal, which accounts for 40 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats of the state, ahead of next year's Lok Sabha poll, but also indicated a paradigm shift in state politics with the baton of main opposition party passing from the Left to the BJP.
State Election Commission sources said of the 622 zilla parishad seats, for which elections were held, the TMC won 544 and is leading in 37 seats. The BJP won 22 zilla parishad seats and is leading in two seats, they said.
The saffron party bagged zilla parishad seats in Purulia (9), Malda (6), Jhargram (3), Nadia (2), Alipurduar (1) and North Dinajpur (1) districts.
The Congress has won two zilla parishad seats in Malda district and is leading in three others. The Communist Party of India-Marxist is yet to open its account in zilla parishad but is leading in one. Independents have won two seats, the SEC sources said.
The TMC continued to maintain its dominance in zilla parishads with a complete sweep in 12 out of 20 districts in which election was held.
The ruling party had a clean sweep in zilla parishad in Jalpaiguri, South Dinajpur, Murshidabad, South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, Hooghly, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Bankura, East Burdwan and West Burdwan districts. In Birbhum, the TMC won all the zilla parishad seats uncontested.
Counting of votes which began at 8 am yesterday is still underway.
A jubilant TMC said the result would boost the party as rural polls are the last major election in the state before the 2019 LS polls.
The TMC bagged nearly 67 per cent of the total contested seats in gram panchayat, 87 per cent in zilla parishad and 80 per cent in panchayat samitis.
The BJP said the panchayat poll result would act as a morale booster for the party's rank and file. The saffron party has put up a "commendable" pan-Bengal performance in the elections.
Be it tribal-dominated districts like Purulia, Jhargram, West Midnapore, Bankura or districts in North Bengal such as Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur or Muslim dominated Malda, the BJP has cemented its position as the main opposition in the state by relegating the CPI(M) and the Congress to distant third and fourth position respectively.
The BJP secured 18 per cent of the contested seats in gram panchayat, 12 per cent of the seats in panchayat samitis and 3.5 per cent seats in zilla parishads.
According to a senior state BJP leader, it was the first time in the last 15 years that the party had won so many seats at various levels in every districts of the state.
"Don't go by the percentage of seats we have won but you have look into the environment in which polls were held and we had started from zero. What is significant is despite so much of violence we have managed to win so many seats whereas the Congress and the CPI-M have failed to put up a fight," said a senior state BJP leader.
The Trinamool Congress outdid others in panchayat samiti too winning 4,888 of them so far and leading in another 30 seats. The BJP won 756 seats and is leading in eight.
The CPI-M won 111 panchayat samiti seats, while the Congress won 131 seats, the SEC sources said, adding Independents have won 114 panchayat samiti seats.
The TMC also continued to maintain its dominance in gram panchayats, the lowest level of the three-tier panchayat system, by winning 21,110 seats and is ahead in another 29 seats, for which counting was in progress.
The BJP has won 5,747 seats and is leading in 12 seats, the State Election Commission sources said.
The CPI-M slipped to the third position from the second place it had occupied in the last panchayat polls in 2013. It won 1,477 gram panchayat seats and is ahead in another four, the sources said. It is just 4.5 per cent of the total seats contested.
The Congress is at fourth position by winning 1,062 seats and leading in four -- a score lower than that of Independents, who won 1,827 gram panchayat seats and are leading in 18 seats. The Congress has won just 3.3 per cent of the total seats contested.
The CPI-M and the Congress dubbed the elections a "farce".
"Although the results were on expected lines, we need to introspect how come BJP got more seats than us," said a senior CPI-M leader.
The panchayat poll was held in 622 zilla parishad, 6,123 panchayat samiti and 31,802 gram panchayat seats in 20 West Bengal districts on May 14.
Of the total 48,650 seats in gram panchayats, 16,814 went uncontested. There was also no contest on 3,059 of the 9,217 panchayat samiti seats and in 203 of the 825 zilla parishad seats.
"Despite so much violence, we have won so many seats. Had the elections been free and fair, we would have won 50 per cent seats at all the three levels of the panchayat. Now our target is next Lok Sabha polls. We will try to capitalize on our performance in rural polls," state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.
Widespread violence during the polls claimed at least 12 lives and left 43 injured.
The ruling TMC, on the other hand, said the people of West Bengal had voted in favour of development ushered in by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"People have voted in favour of development and have defeated the forces who were spreading canards against our state," TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said.