Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Indian nationalist party suffered a setback on Sunday when the country lost its controversial and violent state polls.
India held its biggest democratic exercise in two years over the past month, with 175 million people eligible to vote in five regional elections.
But the marathon polls involved huge rallies where many attendees were maskless, and a record-breaking coronavirus spike coincided with the final phases of voting.
The most important election was in the eastern state of West Bengal, home to 90 million people.
Modi and his right-hand man, Home Minister Amit Shah, campaigned heavily in the state as they sought to end a decade of rule by firebrand leader Mamata Banerjee.
But as the results began to trickle, they showed their third term to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party in Banerjee.
Despite the ban on virus-related celebrations, thousands of TMC supporters took to the streets.
Banerjee, 66, said in his victory speech later on Sunday that West Bengal’s “direct challenge is to fight Covid-19, and we believe we will win”.
“This victory has saved the humanity, the people of India. It s the victory of India,” Banerjee, a fierce critic of Modi, added.
Modi tweeted his congratulations but added that his party had grown its support in the state “from a negligible presence earlier”.
Banerjee however lost her seat in Nandigram, to a former confidant who defected to Modi s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
She vowed to bring a lawsuit to the court. She can still be sworn back as the chief minister, but within six months, another voter has elected.
Earlier, after the two candidates died of Covid-19, the vote for the two electoral districts was postponed.
The BJP retained the state of Assam in the northeast.
In the former small French colony of Puducherry (previously known as Pondicherry), BJP is expected to come to power through alliances in an effort to expand its influence in the traditionally weak southern part of the country.
In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, M.K. Ten years later, Stalin defeated the current coalition with the People’s Party as the Kuomintang and returned to the DMK party.
In Kerala in the south, where the BJP until now has played only a bit part, a left-wing alliance retained power with a comfortable victory over a Congress-led coalition.
It was the first time a government in the state had been re-elected since 1977.
Experts blame complacency about the virus, as well as religious festivals attended by millions of devotees and political rallies, for the virus crisis in the world s second-most populous nation.