India World

Modi’s party faces setback in key Indian states amid coronavirus crises

The incumbent chief minister’s party in India’s West Bengal state has defeated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in a state election held as the country’s coronavirus pandemic surged to crisis levels.

West Bengal, which is viewed as a key battleground, has never been ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite aggressive campaigning and massive rallies.

Mamata Banerjee, 66, is set to be the chief of West Bengal for the third time after her Trinamool Congress party (TMC) won a two-thirds majority, taking more than 200 seats in the 294-seat state assembly, election commission officials said.

Banerjee is now India’s only woman chief minister.

Despite the defeat, the BJP made substantial gains and became the main opposition party. Its tally in the state legislature went to nearly 80 seats, compared to just three seats won in the last state election in 2016.

The results are seen as a test on whether the second wave of Covid-19 has impacted support for Modi and the right-wing BJP.

Modi, his colleagues and regional politicians campaigned in five state elections, including West Bengal, despite the second wave of Covid-19 prompting criticism the Prime Minister was focusing on elections instead of making the pandemic his top priority.

In northeastern Assam state, the BJP managed to retain power. In Tamil Nadu, victory went to the DMK, the main regional opposition party.

In Kerala state, the ruling leftist political party was set to form government while the BJP led-alliance won no seats. In the union territory of Puducherry, the All India NR Congress-led alliance won majority.

Most of the votes were cast in March, but polling in some constituencies continued through April, just as India started to detect thousands of new coronavirus infections every day.