KOLKATA: Sunday’s KMC poll set the stage for a battle between the ruling TMC, seeking to hold on amid rumblings within it over the fall of several sitting advisers and the opposition BJP, for which the challenge is to wrest second position in the civic body of the city from the Left Front led by the CPI (M).
The BJP also faces the task of keeping its herd together after facing an exodus as a result of the beating in the assembly ballot.
For the Saffron party, bitter after the defeat in the legislative elections from which it came out far second, the challenge will be to keep internal differences aside and to keep its ground among the urban electorate.
Internal differences within the BJP have come to light in recent months.
The civic ballot, delayed due to the pandemic, will provide the Trinamool Congress with a much needed makeover after the 2018 panchayat election, as it attempts to expand to the nationwide.
The rural poll that year was marked by widespread violence and the makeover will depend on its ability to secure a peaceful election for the KMC.
The TMC leadership has, to this end, warned its candidates against any violence and threatened to expel those who would be involved or not allowing free and fair elections.
TMC had regained power in West Bengal for the third consecutive term and swept through all 16 segments of the city assembly in the April-May assembly ballot.
He has been in power in the city’s civic body since 2010 and is expected to dominate the KMC elections this time around, too, building on the momentum of his massive victory in the state ballot and the recent label of ” intangible heritage ”from UNESCO for Durga Puja from Kolkata.
The election in the 144 districts of KMC will take place on December 19 and the counting of the votes will take place on December 21.
On the strength of its performance in the legislative elections, the party decided to revamp its image and let go of 39 “non-performing” advisers.
Some of them are fighting as independents or have become inactive in the election campaign.
In the assembly poll, the BJP’s vote share in the KMC region was 29 percent, while in the state it was 38 percent.
In the previous edition of the KMC poll, held in 2015, TMC won 124 constituencies, the Left Front 13, the BJP five and Congress two.
The ruling party, which released a 10-point vision document for civic polls, hopes to win more than 135 seats this time around.
“The development that TMC’s board of directors (in the civic body) has brought since 2010 and the state government since 2011 is sufficient to ensure our victory in the KMC ballot.
After our success in the parliamentary elections under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, the party’s victory in the KMC polls is inevitable, “said former Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim, also minister of state.
Unlike the 2015 KMC election campaign, when TMC fought to screen then-mayor Sovan Chatterjee as mayoral candidate, the TMC did not announce the candidate this time around.
Although Hakim declined to comment, party sources said the TMC leadership this time decided not to announce a mayoral candidate because they did not want a “communal campaign to take shape.”
“If we had screened Hakim as a candidate, we would have seen the BJP come to town for the Muslim mayor’s issue. We didn’t want that to happen, so we decided not to screen anyone,” a senior official said. TMC.
Hakim, a trusted aide to party leader Mamata Banerjee, took over as mayor of Kolkata in December 2018 after Chatterjee resigned his and other ministerial posts for personal reasons.
During the 145-year history of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, nationalists like Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Bidhan Chandra Roy, also a former chief minister, had graced the chair of mayor in pre-independent India.
Hakim was the city’s first Muslim mayor after independence.
The civic body was established during British times in 1876 by passing the Calcutta Municipal Consolidation Act, 1876.
The BJP, whose KMC election campaign has lacked vigor, hopes the party will achieve “astonishing results” if free and fair elections are held.
“We wanted the KMC ballot to take place in the presence of the central forces. But now that the ballots will be conducted under the direction of the state police, we are worried about how the elections will go. If they are free and fair, we hope to come up with amazing results, ”said BJP President Sukanta Majumdar.
Incidentally, TMC and BJP have a common opponent: the independents.
Independents are candidates who have been denied tickets by their respective parties and are fighting alone in North and South Kolkata.
Congress and the Left Front, which failed to open their account to the state assembly for the first time since independence and were pushed to the fringes of West Bengal politics, decided this times to show up separately.
Faced with an existential crisis, the CPI (M) this time presented young candidates from its brigade of Red Volunteers – a group of left-wing activists in their twenties, who were awarded for their humanitarian services during the lockdown.
The Left Front is placing its hopes on the young group to regain ground lost among the urban electorate in Sunday’s municipal poll.
“The Red Volunteers are widely accepted by the masses. The share of the vote they managed to get in the last assembly ballot was well above our average share of the vote. This time, in the KMC poll, it was therefore a conscious decision to present more young candidates. “said a senior CPI official (M).
The Congress, meanwhile, hopes for good results.
The BJP, the Left Front and Congress focused on the alleged illegal construction in the city, waterlogging and worsening public order as main elements of their manifestos for the KMC election.
The ruling Trinamool Congress, for its part, has pledged to improve facilities, which it says have been put in place during its tenure in the last two terms.
During his brief poll, Banerjee had insisted on providing “better, corruption-free” civic services.
The TMC supremo also said the UNESCO heritage label for the city’s Durga Puja was due to government efforts and would be enough to sweep the ballot boxes.
According to political analyst Suman Bhattacharya, the challenge for TMC is to ensure elections without violence, while for the BJP, it is a fight to prove its existence in South Bengal.
“I won’t be surprised if the left gets a share of the vote or a higher number of seats than the BJP in the KMC elections,” he said.