By bappaditya paul
Out of the alliance with the Trinamul, the Congress has failed to put up candidates even in half of the panchayat seats in Bengal that are scheduled to go to the polls beginning 2 July.
The situation is such that the Congress is literally absent from the panchayat poll fray in 28 of the 329 blocks up for the three-phase rural polls. The Congress has put up candidates in 28,098 seats; the total number of panchayat seats in the state covering all the three tiers ~ gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and the zilla parishad ~ is 58,707.
Significantly, of the three tiers, the Congress is missing mostly in the gram panchayat seats that directly represent the villages.
This comes at a time when all the front-line Congress leaders in Bengal are asserting themselves like never before and the erstwhile Trinamul ally is even sometimes stealing the main Opposition space from the Left Front.
The Congress has lost the panchayat poll plot, particularly in the nine south Bengal districts ~ North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, East and West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and Burdwan ~ that are going to the elections in the first phase. The total number of seats in the first phase is 36,006; the Congress has managed to put up candidates only in 11,708.
As compared to this, the Congress’ candidature count in the second and third phase is a little better. In the second phase, polls are to be held in Nadia, Birbhum, Mushidabad and Malda with the total number of seats being 14,379; the party has successfully put up candidates in 11,016 seats.
The third phase polls to be held in North and South Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar have 8,322 seats and the Congress is in the fray in 5,374.
Pradesh Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya blamed the twin reasons of weak organisational strength and the intimidation by Trinamul Congress for his party missing from many a panchayat candidates.
“The Trinamul has lured away a large number of the Congress workers across rural Bengal and has thus rendered our party organisation very weak at the grass-root level. As a result, we have failed to put up candidates in 28 blocks. We have particularly become very weak in Hooghly, Bankura, East and West Midnapore,” he said. “Criminal intimidation and atrocities by the Trinamul have worsened the situation for us in the remaining districts.”
He said now that the Congress has begun asserting itself, it would take “at least a year to rejuvenate the party organisation” in Bengal.
(The author is Senior Reporter, The Statesman, India. This was first published in The Statesman on 22 June 2013.)