Modi party defeated in battleground West Bengal

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TMC supporters celebrate their party's win in West Bengal

TMC supporters have been celebrating after being returned to power in West Bengal

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has failed to win a key state in elections held amid record deaths and cases of coronavirus.

The BJP targeted West Bengal heavily during campaigning but it was comfortably held by the incumbent, Mamata Banerjee, a fierce Modi critic.

The party held power in Assam but failed to make major gains elsewhere.

The vote was closely watched to see if Mr Modi would be punished by voters for his handling of India’s Covid crisis.

For 10 straight days, daily cases have topped 300,000. On Sunday, India set a new record for daily deaths, with 3,689 recorded. Hospitals are facing dire shortages of beds and medical oxygen, with many Indians resorting to desperate pleas on social media to secure help.

Campaign rallies and voting have been blamed for the surge in cases.

Mr Modi and his home minister made dozens of speeches in West Bengal and were criticised for focusing on the polls rather than the pandemic.

What happened in Bengal?

With almost all the results counted, the Trinamool Congress party (TMC) of Mamata Banerjee has more than 200 seats in the 294-seat assembly.

The results are set to make Ms Banerjee the leader of West Bengal for a third time. She is also India’s only woman chief minister.

Celebrating the win, she said West Bengal had “saved” India with the result and pledged to make taking coronavirus here immediate priority.

Victory was soured by the loss of her seat in Nandigram to a former aide turned BJP defector. She has said she will challenge the result in court but may have to run again to remain chief minister.

West Bengal, home to 90 million people, is of particular interest to election watchers. It is one of the few states where Mr Modi does not have a majority of parliamentary seats and has never been ruled by his Hindu nationalist party, the BJP.

Despite the defeat, this vote saw the BJP win nearly 80 seats to become the main opposition party in West Bengal. In the 2016 vote the party won just three seats.

Mr Modi congratulated Ms Banerjee in a tweet but added “from a negligible presence earlier [in West Bengal], BJP’s presence has significantly increased”.

How about elsewhere?

As well as the north-eastern states of West Bengal and Assam, there has been voting in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the South Indian union territory of Puducherry, and local council elections in some parts of Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.

In Tamil Nadu, the main regional opposition party, the DMK, took power. Their leader MK Stalin was named in tribute to the late Soviet dictator.

A left-wing coalition retained power in Kerala, while a BJP-led alliance won no seats.

On top of the coronavirus pandemic, some analysts saw the results as showing the limits of the BJP’s rhetoric in states with sizeable Muslim populations.



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