Nandigram costs Left in civic polls, Mamata rejoices


Kolkata : The ruling Left Front in West Bengal got the first electoral jolt after violent protests over land acquisition for industry in Nandigram as it lost the Panskura municipal body elections in East Midnapore to the Trinamool Congress-Congress combine.

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All eyes were on Panskura, closest to Nandigram under the same East Midnapore district, with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya matching a gruelling campaign by Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee.

At least 14 people were killed in police firing in Nandigram March 14 in a protest against a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

Of the 17 seats of the Panskura municipality, the combine won 10 while the Left lost its stronghold in the area as it managed to win only seven. Trinamool alone got eight seats while Congress bagged two.

Buoyed by the victory, Trinamool chief Banerjee said the local body election result had clearly indicated the huge support of people to the opposition parties in the backdrop of an anti-land acquisition movement in the state.

"The victory comes after the movement against the SEZ in Nandigram and the brutal police firing that killed 14 and left over hundreds injured in the trouble-torn area. The victory in Panskura is a tribute to those who lost their loved ones in the March 14 police firing and still suffering from spiralling tension," Banerjee told a press conference here after the victory.

Elections were held Sunday for 104 seats of five municipalities – Panskura, Dhupguri, Durgapur, Nalhati and Cooper's Camp. Also, by-elections were held in 11 wards of 10 municipalities as well as 516 panchayat seats comprising 24 zilla parishads, 94 panchayat samities and 398 gram panchayats.

The Left Front retained its power in Durgapur (Burdwan district of south Bengal) and Dhupguri (Jalpaiguri in north Bengal) municipalities while the Congress retained both Nalhati and Cooper's Camp municipalities (in Birbhum and Nadia districts of south Bengal, respectively).