Violence mars KMC polls despite predictions of a TMC sweep

Till Sunday night, police have reportedly arrested 203 people in connection with inciting violence in the ongoing KMC polls

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation or KMC polls, held on December 19, was supposed to be held earlier on April-May 2020, but were postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. This year too, the civic polls grabbed headlines due to violence and alleged rigging.

Though the C-Voter survey predicted a clean sweep for the ruling TMC, and 10-13 seats for the BJP. The Left Front and Congress are expected to win none despite predictions of regaining the Opposition vote bank that had shifted towards BJP during the Assembly polls.

Who and how many have filed nominations?

The KMC polls have always functioned very differently from the Assembly elections as all parties engage in close contests. This year, the Trinamool Congress has contested in all 144 wards, while the BJP contested in 142 wards as two of their candidates withdrew their nominations.

The CPI (M) and CPI had jointly fielded candidates for 110 wards, and the remaining allies nominated 26 candidates. Former election partner of the Left Front, Congress nominated 123 candidates.

With 387 independent candidates in the fray, a total of 950 candidates contested the polls. The total number of independent candidates was less compared to that of the previous years. It is so because, most of them were absorbed in the recent green and saffron induction program. A total of 4,959 booths went to the polls.

This year also saw more women candidates, as one-third of the seats were reserved for them. Around 402 women participated in the 2021 KMC polls. Ward 39, near College Street, was considered a hot seat, as 16 candidates threw their hats in the ring. Names like TMC’s Muhammad Jasimuddin and BJP’s Muhammad Jahangir were prominent among the candidates. Wards 23 and 43 saw a strong fight as 12 candidates battled to become councillors of their respective wards. Other prominent that witnessed voting included Kolkata Port, Kalighat (Mamata Banerjee’s constituency) and Behala.

Issues that battered the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls

If privatization issues and porous borders had dominated the 2021 Assembly polls, local issues like uncovered drains and messy overhead cable wires were planks on which the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls were fought. “Most of the footpaths near the university are encroached by illegal vendors who sell books to accessories,” a voter named Bubu said, in Jadavpur.

In areas like Behala and Joka, waterlogging has been one of the major issues. This year during monsoons, the majority of the area remained waterlogged for days together. One of the most dominant issues was the construction of public toilets for women in every ward. The city severely lacks women public toilets. Prominent places like Gariahat, Rashbehari, Tollygunge do not have any public washroom for females.

This year also witnessed a rise in dengue cases that called for attention of the medical fraternity. Handling the pandemic way a key factor in the 2021 Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls. That’s why Left Front leaders have nominated red volunteers who have become a popular face in their localities for arranging hospital beds and oxygen cylinders.

Rising pollution levels were also a concern for people staying near the main connecting roads across the city as the number of cars plying along these roads had increased manifold. 

Sporadic violence reported in KMC polls

It is now a distant dream to watch a violence-free election in Kolkata and Bengal. Till Sunday night, 203 arrests were made, a huge jump from 72 arrests till 5 pm.  Meena Devi Purohit, a BJP candidate of ward 22 (Burrabazar), alleged that political goons tore up her clothes in front of the booth in Maheswari Balika Vidyalaya.

The Congress polling agent of ward 45 was allegedly thrashed by political henchmen at Jain Vidyalaya near BBD Bagh in the morning. Candidate Santosh Pathak blamed Trinamool Congress for the assault. Pathak said the agent was protesting against false voting when the incident happened.

News of bombings had startled the city residents as they were not accustomed to poll violence within the city. Two incidents of bombings were reported in front of Khanna High School on Beliaghata Main Road (ward 36). TMC’s Sachin Singh has accused Opposition parties of trying to terrorise voters. The police said they were looking for suspects.

The reports of violence have united the opposition as they are now protesting against it in the streets. The entire Opposition units have questioned the role of Kolkata Police in controlling the violence and alleged that the police were acting on the behest of the government.

ABP C-Voter poll predictions

The ABP C-Voter has predicted a clean sweep for TMC with 131 seats. The magic number is 63. TMC has been ruling KMC for the last decade.

BJP is expected to win 13 seats, mostly due to their lacklustre campaigns and candidate selection. BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP from Kolkata, Rupa Ganguly, blamed the irresponsible governing body for the loss. She has said that Opponents are buying out BJP candidates.

The Left Front and the Congress are expected to win none as experts believed that they need time to translate the incoming support from other Opposition barracks to votes.

The total voter turnout percentage was impressive as 63.63% of voters cast their votes till 5 pm. The number was supposed to rise to 65% as more people were waiting in the queue. It is a good number as voter turnout was expected to be low on Covid scare, and based on the perception of TMC winning the polls. Despite a 3% drop in voter turnout since the last civic election, polling officials have said that it is a good number for the city as 65% of voters have cast their votes in the 2021 Assembly election in Kolkata.

However, the experts have indirectly alleged rigging as the number went up during the last leg of the voting.

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