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Setback to Mission Bengal as ruling party makes inroads in hills

West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress has established its lead in all of the seven municipalities in five districts of the state, making unprecedented gains in hill areas, even as counting of votes for Sunday’s polls to seven municipalities in West Bengal progressed on Tuesday.

The Trinamool has been looking to open its account in the Darjeeling, Mirik, Kalimpong and Kurseong civic bodies in the hills, and some fear that the results may prove to be a blow to the BJP which has embarked on its Mission Bengal programme in a bid to install a government in the state in the next assembly elections. Darjeeling is ruled by BJP ally Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM).

The Trinamool is also racing ahead even in traditional Congress bastions—Raiganj, Domkal and Pujali near Kolkata. Following large scale violence and vandalism, the opposition parties has withdrawn their candidates from these three municipalities. They are demanding fresh elections there.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury held the ruling party responsible for the hooliganism, terming the outcome as a “mockery of democracy and blatant misuse of state machinery”. The Congress, meanwhile, has approached court asking it to call off the elections.  The petition will be heard by a Kolkata court on Tuesday.

The Trinamool, in turn, has blamed the BJP, saying it is polarising the masses on basis of faith. The saffron party came second to Trinamool in the recently-held by-elections to the Kanthi Dakshin assembly seat.

Asking party leaders to work hard to win more Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections, BJP chief Amit Shah expressed his gratitude to workers for making their party the “principal opposition party” in the state.

The BJP had secured two of West Bengal’s 40 parliamentary seats in the 2014 general elections. Trinamool won 34 seats and increased its vote share from four to 17 per cent. In the 2016 assembly election in which Trinamool returned to power in the state with a resounding majority, the BJP won four seats.

Update: In reports just coming in, Trinamool Congress has won four (Domkal, Mirik, Raiganj and Pujali) seats, while the BJP-GJM combine registered victory in three (Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong), all in the hills.

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