KOLKATA, June 2 � Mamata Banerjee�s Trinamool Congress today inflicted a crushing blow to the ruling Left Front in the civic polls, capturing the prestigious Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and bagging 36 other municipalities in the �semi-finals� ahead of next year�s Assembly elections.
Riding the winds of political change and improving on its performance in the Lok Sabha polls and subsequent by-elections, the Trinamool Congress also humbled ally Congress in its victory march.
The Trinamool, which had lost the KMC to the Left Front in 2005, swept the 141-ward city corporation, winning 95 with the CPI(M) following far behind at 33, Congress securing 10 and BJP three.
Among the 81 civic bodies spread across 16 of 19 districts for which elections were held on Sunday, the Trinamool Congress won 36, the Left Front 18 and the Congress six.
Besides this, the TC and Congress won in 17 municipalities, including in Memari, Daihat, Kalna, where there was unofficial understanding between the two parties.
Elections to four of the civic bodies in Bongaon, Taki Mathabhanga and Kanchrapara led to hung boards.
The Left Front had been in power in 55 civic bodies, Trinamool in eight and Congress in 11 prior to the elections.
The Trinamool also wrested the Bidhannagar (Salt Lake) municipality after a gap of 15 years.
Buoyed by the remarkable showing of her party, Banerjee demanded immediate Assembly elections, saying that the CPI(M) has lost all right to continue in power.
Chief Minister Buddadeb Bhattacharjee refused to take questions from the media on the Left Front�s poor showing.
The civic elections were also a prestige fight between Banerjee, the Railway Minister, and Union Finance Minister and WBPCC chief Pranab Mukherjee after the two sides failed to clinch a seat-sharing deal in the KMC. It was also to judge the Trinamool�s own strength sans Congress prior to next year�s Assembly elections.
In Delhi, Mukherjee congratulated Banerjee for her excellent performance and accepted the failure of the Congress in not coming up to expectations. �I accept the failure of the Congress to perform up to the expectations which we had. I accept the verdict of the people with all humility,� he said.
For the Left Front it was equally a test to ascertain whether it had gained from the Trinamool and Congress going separate ways in the civic elections.
Banerjee, who flew in from Delhi this morning, said the transformation was taking place in the State where nothing was achieved in the last 34 years of Left rule.
Stating that she was not demanding imposition of President�s Rule under Article 356, Banerjee said �Elections can be held within six months. The Election Commission can do it.�
�The CPI(M) has lost all right to continue in power in the State. Assembly elections should be held immediately.�
Asked about alliance with the Congress for the Assembly elections, she said, �I can�t say anything about tomorrow. I am not a political astrologer. I am always open for alliance. I am in favour of a mahajote (grand alliance). Let us see what happens.�
The CPI(M), which is leading the Left Front, admitted the results were a setback but claimed that the trend of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections has not been reversed but certainly arrested.
�But a lot more has to be done to get to the winning path,� politburo member Sitaram Yechury said.
The down-slide for the Left Front began from the May 2008 panchayat elections followed by decimation in the Lok Sabha elections last year and a string of assembly by-elections that followed. � PTI