The growth of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the cost of the Left Front and the Congress continues unabated in West Bengal. While TMC’s seat share went up to 66% in the 2018 Bengal panchayat elections from 52% in 2013, the BJP’s share grew by 17% at the Gram Panchayat (GP) level in the three-tier rural polls. The seat share at the GP level provides a very clear picture of the political scene in rural Bengal where 74% of the State’s electorate reside. A similar trend was noticed in nearly all the recent elections and by-polls.The saffron party got a little over 1% seats in 2013 at the GP level. In this week’s panchayat elections, the BJP bagged more than 18% seats in an election process marred by violence. Even after the Opposition could not field a candidate in about one-third of the seats, the BJP’s vote share increased significantly. On the other hand, the Left Front’s seat share dropped noticeably.The Left Front got marginally over 32% seats in the panchayat polls of 2013 at the GP level, which was nearly a 20% drop from that in 2008. In 2018, the seat share has reached its nadir. The Left Front got 5% seats, according to the data released by the State Election Commission [SEC] on Friday night. The Congress’s seat share has come down to 3% from 11%.Infact, the seat share of the Independent candidates was more than the Left Front or the Congress at the GP level. The reason, as it appeared on Friday, is that the Independent candidates, who belong to the one or the other factions of the ruling party in most of the cases, have won in many seats defeating the “official” TMC candidate. Realising that many of the Independent candidates are affiliated to the TMC, party chief Mamata Banerjee indicated on Thursday that they will eventually be brought back to the party fold. However, Independent candidates defeating the Left and the Congress has been described as “a unique development” in Bengal politics.While BJP got 12% and 3.5% seats at the Panchayat Samity (PS) and Zilla Parishad (ZP) level respectively, the Left Front got 2% and less than 1% at the PS and ZP levels. The Congress, too, has nearly been decimated at PS and ZP level.
Two persons died, while two others were injured after a few youths opened fired at the staff in a garment shop in a mall in Varanasi over a dispute on Wednesday, police said.The incident took place at the JHV shopping mall in the high-security Cantonment area of the Uttar Pradesh city. The suspects, alleged to be students of the Kashi Vidyapeeth University, have been identified. The three suspects entered the branded apparel store and one of them, identified as Alok Upadhyay, inquired about a salesman named Prashant. The suspect then got involved in a brawl with the other staff but was soon overpowered. A country-made pistol he was carrying was also snatched away, said a witness. Vivek Tripathi, UP police spokesperson, said after finding their friend overpowered, the other two youths tried to rescue him and fired shots at the salesmen and in the air.Two persons, Gopi Kanaujia and Sunil Kumar, died of bullet injuries, while Vishal Singh and Chandan Sharma, were admitted to hospital and are said to be stable, police said.”They also fired shots indiscriminately in the mall, after exiting the store,” said one of the witnesses. While initially police was told that the firing was triggered by a dispute over discount, a police statement in the evening hinted at a personal enmity.As per the police, the main accused Alok Upadhyay had a dispute with one of the salesmen Prashant over his friendship with a female staff at the store. The witness also said that the accused had once already assaulted the salesman outside the mall.Inspector General, Varanasi, Vijay Singh Meena, said the CCTV footage of the mall was being examined. The police is investigating how the three suspects managed to bring in weapons into the mall as frisking is done at the entry.