Panchayat polls
Kolkata: With nearly 40 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal being 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 next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
The stakes seem to be high for the ruling Trinamool Congress in the upcoming West Bengal panchayat polls, as the party leadership feels that gaining a foothold in national politics after the 2019 Lok Sabha election is incumbent on winning the rural heartland.

 

According to senior TMC leaders, the party’s objective to play a major role at the national level can only be successful if it manages to bag the maximum share out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.

“People will endorse this in the upcoming panchayat elections. Yes, the journey to Delhi originates in the rural heartland of Bengal,” Derek O’Brien, TMC parliamentary party leader in Rajya Sabha, said.

Senior BJP leader Mukul Roy, who was once number two in the TMC and been instrumental in its performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, feels TMC’s wish to be a major national force will never be fulfilled as the BJP will “decimate” the ruling party in Bengal in the next Lok Sabha election.

“The people of Bengal are yearning for a change and BJP will bring that change,” Roy said.

The elections will be held across 48,650 seats in 3,358-gram panchayats, 9,217 seats at 341 panchayat samitis, and 825 seats at 20 Zilla Parishads.

Another senior TMC leader came up with an analogy on how results of panchayat polls directly influence the Lok Sabha election in Bengal.

“Our victory in South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore zilla parishads in the 2008 panchayat polls had led to the party winning 19 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. The stellar performance in 2013 panchayat polls, when it won the maximum number of zilla parishads, also led TMC to bag 34 Lok Sabha seats in 2014,” he explained.

However, he admitted that despite winning so many seats, the party could not have a major role after the 2014 elections, as the BJP managed a full majority. “But this time, things will be different from 2014 and TMC will play a defining role after 2019,” the TMC leader said.

The TMC leadership has time and again emphasised that it will play a major role on the national level, after next year’s Lok Sabha polls.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had last month said she would try to unite all the anti-BJP forces to defeat the saffron party in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

The TMC top brass had also met several leaders of various Opposition parties, including UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and TRS chief KC Rao, aiming to cobble up a formidable front against the BJP.