West Bengal, which of late is witnessing heated politics owing to the clash between the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the fast-growing BJP, will see seven civic elections on Sunday, May 14, and though local, these polls are significant for both the state's ruling and Opposition parties. The seven civic bodies going to the polls are Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik, Raiganj, Pujali and Domkol.
These elections are particularly important for Opposition parties like the Left Front, Congress and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in the hills of Darjeeling.
The Opposition forces in both the plains and the hills are amid a struggle for survival and will be desperate to regain some ground. The Left and the Congress, which have ruled the state for long time in the past, have been reduced to fringe players after Mamata Banerjee first came to power in 2011.
While in Darjeeling, the GJM, which was once the flag-bearer for the movement for a separate Gorkhaland, has been foxed by the ruling TMC through shrewd political moves in its own den and has been trying hard to redeem some hope. The GJM has backed the BJP to counter TMC in the past but given the BJP's own organisational weakness in the state, the GJM has the responsibility on its own shoulders to better its prospects ahead of the next Lok Sabha election in 2019.
Congress keen to win back Raiganj
From the Congress's perspective, the battle in Raiganj is significant for it had been one of its bastions in the state traditionally. It's a do-or-die battle for Mohit Sengupta, who has served as the civic chief in Rajganj for almost a decade now. Several of his colleagues have now switched to the TMC but Sengupta has vowed to make the Congress a strong force in this zone again. It may be mentioned here that the Left had wrested the Raiganj Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 general elections.
Congress-Left tie-up's fate faces test; Domkol polling hit by violence again
The fate of the Congress-Left tie-up, which had a faced a humiliation in the 2016 Assembly elections in the state, will be tested again in Domkol in Murshidabad, known to be the fortress of the party's state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. Domkol is notorious for poll violence and the place has already been witnessing violence ahead and on the day of the polling.
The ruling TMC has a special challenge in Domkol for it had lost here in the last Assembly election even when it had swept most of the state. Former MP and currently the state's transport minister, Suvendu Adhikary had taken up the challenge of blooming the TMC's grass flower in Domkol. Can he do it?
Five of the civic bodies going to polls are under Opposition's control
Five of the seven civic bodies – Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik in North Bengal and Raiganj in North Dinajpur-- going to polls are under the control of the Opposition forces and the TMC will have to go an extra mile to turn around the tables. In Pujali in South 24 Parganas, though the TMC is in power but they came in power following an erosion in the Congress's ranks. The ruling party would like to win it straight this time to reiterate its dominance. In Domkol, civic polls are being held for the first time.
In Darjeeling, four civic bodies are going to polls and the TMC, though has cornered the GJM in state politics of late, is not sure about the results in the hills. State Tourism Minister Gautam Deb has also conceded that it is difficult to understand the undercurrents in the hills' politics.
The BJP, on the other hand, will also try to make some gains in these local polls to strengthen its grip in the state's politics, something which its top brass is emphasising regularly now.