West Bengal is all set to witness a triangular contest between Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC), BJP, CPI(M) and Congress in West Bengal Panchayat elections, scheduled to be held next month.
The rural polls are being held at a time state chief minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to unite opposition parties to take on the BJP in the 2019 parliamentary polls. She is seen as key player in uniting opposition ahead of general elections. She has also met a host of leaders, including those from the Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Accordig to the reports, the BJP is trying to gain ground in West Bengal, a state where it hopes to do well after an emphatic victory in Tripura, where the party ousted the Left Front government of 25 years in this year's assembly polls. It is crucial for the ruling TMC to maintain strong mandate it got in 2016 Assembly polls. Left and Congress will fight for their existence in West Bengal politics.
A warm up match for BJP
The upcoming panchayat polls in West Bengal are rapidly emerging as a warm up match for the BJP ahead the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, with the saffron party pulling out all stops to reach out to the people, political observers say.
With nearly 40 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal located in villages and semi-urban areas, administered by panchayats, an absolute control of the rural bodies is a must for political parties to have an upper hand on rivals in the next year's Lok Sabha polls.
BJP president Amit Shah had recently said the party is aiming to win 22 seats in Bengal.
Crucial for TMC
The battle is interestingly poised as the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is planning to play a bigger role nationally after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the BJP aiming to emerge as the main opposition to the TMC in the state.
An estimated 50 million voters are eligible to vote in these elections to gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads.
Elections will be held in 48,751 seats in 3,358 gram panchayats, 9,240 seats in 341 panchayat samitis and 825 seats in 20 zilla parishads. There will be 57,233 booths spread across the 20 districts.
The districts voting in the first phase are Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, East Burdwan, West Burdwan, Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, West Midnapore and East Midnapore.
On May 3, polling will be held in Murshidabad and Birbhum districts, while in the third phase on May 5 is scheduled for Coochbehar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda districts, Singh said.
Repolling, if required, for the first phase will be held on May 3; for the second phase on May 5 and for the third phase on May 7.
Panchayat elections in Bengal have often been marred by violence. However, the scale of such attacks appear to have increased in 2018. At least two have died and more than 200 people are reported to be seriously injured.
OneIndia News (with PTI inputs)