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Modi’s BJP failed in the elections in West Bengal

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has failed far in its bid to gain control of a fiercely contested state election in which its aggressive efforts to go to the polls have been criticized as exacerbating the rise in Covid-19 infections in the country.

Official results coming in early Monday show Mr Modi Bharatiya Janata’s party is ready to win up to 77 seats in the West Bengal legislature – a sharp improvement from its previous statements, but far less than the contested majority. of the 292 seats.

Congress’s ruling party, Trinamool, was on track to win 213 seats. The party is led by Mama Banerjee, a powerful regional politician who has sometimes been an outspoken critic of Mr Modi.

Supporters of the Trinamool congress celebrated the house of party leader Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Sunday.


Avishek Das / SOPA Images / Zuma Press

The BJP’s victory, after Mr Modi and the party worked hard to gain control of the country, positions Ms Banerjee as one of the Indian leader’s best rivals, said Sumia Chakrabarti, head of the economy and politics department at Visva-Bharati University. “Mama Banerjee is the most important person now as an alternative to BJP’s hegemony,” he said.

However, Ms Banerjee lost the race for her seat in the town of Nandigram to a candidate who left his party a few months before the election and joined the BJP. Ms. Banerjee may still continue to be the state’s chief minister, but will have to win a seat in a side poll over the next six months.

Mr Modi and other politicians have drawn criticism for holding election rallies attended by tens of thousands as the Covid-19 wave accelerated.

The United States and other countries are intervening to help as new cases of coronavirus in India continue to set daily records. The crisis there underscores how a country’s tide could have ripple effects in the global battle against the pandemic. Photo: Adnan Abidi / Reuters

On Monday, India reported more than 368,000 new cases and more than 3,400 deaths due to the disease. The increase has swept the health care system in affected cities such as New Delhi and spread to other states across the country. Hospitals repel patients and deplete oxygen and Covid-19 drugs, leaving sick people to care for even sicker family members.

Most of the voting took place before the increase in cases turned into a complete crisis. But the way the campaign was conducted was at the center of an angry debate about what fuels the current coronavirus wave.

Mr Modi has been criticized for holding large rallies in April, although the number of new daily cases exceeds 200,000 and climbs. Other parties also held large rallies, often with people crowding around each other. In some cases, the parties brought in workers and supporters from other countries to join the campaign in West Bengal.

New daily cases in West Bengal reached 17,000 at the end of last week. When election dates were first announced on February 26th, the state announced 216 new daily cases. Health experts say rallies could be one of the factors leading to the jump.

A BJP rally drew a large crowd of party supporters in Haura on April 6th.


Debajyoti Chakraborty / NurPhoto / Zuma Press

The BJP has canceled the campaign’s final rallies, National Party spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal said earlier, adding that no one expected the scale of the Covid-19 wave. He said Mr Modi and other BJP members had complied with all safety protocols in force at the time.

West Bengal is one of the last remaining Hindu countries with a majority not controlled by Mr Modi’s BJP. Over the past 10 years, the state’s chief minister, 66-year-old Banerjee, has opposed many central government policies led by Mr Modi and his party, including a law that makes it easier for all immigrants except citizens to travel to citizenship. Muslims from the neighbors of the majority of Muslims in India.

For the first time, the election catapulted the BJP to the position of the main political opposition in West Bengal, said Raj Kamal Patak, the party’s state vice president. “We will play a good role as the opposition and we hope to win next time,” he said.

West Bengal has a special significance in Indian history, culture and politics. The movement of independence of the Indian subcontinent from British rule is taking root and gaining momentum in Bengal, an area that includes the state of West Bengal and present-day Bangladesh. Some of the most influential national icons of modern India – from Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore to Hindu spiritual leader Vivekananda – were from Bengal.

The significance of West Bengal for Indian national discourse is reflected in a sentence that leaders, including Mr. Modi, have often used: “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.”

Write to Krishna Pokharel at krishna.pokharel@wsj.com

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