Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's magic seemed to have worked as the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has swept the three-tier panchayat polls in the state.
The TMC has won in 13 of the 17 districts cornering the Left, which was reduced to winning only in Jalpaiguri. The TMC added to the humiliation by routing the Left from some of its traditional strongholds like Burdwan and Hoogly.
The Congress won just one in Murshidabad while it is a hung result in Malda and North Dinajpur.
The Left has accused the TMC of rigging the polls but Mamata called it a victory of the masses and said people have made the right decision. "I want to thank the people of West Bengal who faced a lot of adversities while voting. By voting and making the right decision, they have brought back the democracy to Bengal," she said.
The massive exercise to determine the results for village councils - the third tier of India's electoral system - was taken up by around 98,000 personnel in 329 counting centres - one in each block - across the rural areas of the state.
Up for grabs are 58,865 seats, for which an impressive 84.56 per cent of the 4.4 crore electorate cast their franchise in five phases - July 11, 15, 19, 22 and 25.
There are in all 755 Zilla Parishad (district councils) constituencies spread over 17 Zilla Parishads, 8,864 Panchayat Samity constituencies in 341 Panchayat Samities and 36,016 Gram Panchayat constituencies in 3,354 Gram Panchayats.
With at least 24 people dying in poll-related violence since round one of the elections, the authorities have deployed 4,500 central armed security forces besides a large army of state police personnel.
While the central forces on guard in the counting centres, the state police personnel have been deployed to maintain peace outside.
The polls were held in the backdrop of intriguing court battles between two constitutional bodies - the West Bengal government and the State Election Commission, violence and complaints of terror, rigging and intimidation mostly against the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Politically, the polls are significant in the wake of the triangular fights between the Trinamool, the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Front (LF) and the Congress, with the latter two charging the Trinamool with having adopted tactics of coercion and intimidation to win the elections "unethically".
To buttress their point, the opposition parties have been referring to the Trinamool winning about 6,250 seats uncontested and alleged that their representatives were not allowed to file nomination.
On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee has claimed that the elections were free and fair, with the violence at a much lower scale than in previous elections. She has, however, claimed that the opposition tried to create unrest in some pockets.
In the 2008 elections, the LF bagged 13 zilla parishads, and the Congress and the Trinamool two each. However, this time the Trinamool was hoping to turn the script around by winning 13 Zilla parishads.
(With additional information from IANS)