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India’s Modi loses West Bengal assembly election amid raging COVID-19 pandemic

Supporters of Trinamool Congress (TMC) party celebrate their party's lead in the West Bengal state legislative assembly elections during the ongoing counting process in Kolkata on May 2, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has lost the key state poll in West Bengal to the party of incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, 66.

Election results showed on Monday that Banerjee's Trinamool Congress party (TMC) has won, making her the chief of West Bengal for a third term.

TMC won a two-thirds majority, taking more than 200 seats in the 294-seat state assembly, election commission officials said.

Banerjee, who is India's only female chief minister, vowed to tackle the surge of the coronavirus pandemic in the country. Our “immediate challenge is to combat the COVID-19,” she said in a speech.

Modi, in the meantime, has been criticized for focusing on the elections instead of making the pandemic his top priority.

The prime minister and his right-hand man, Home Minister Amit Shah, had campaigned heavily in West Bengal amid the pandemic as they sought to end a decade of rule by Banerjee. The state was a key prize in Modi’s second term.

Meanwhile, thousands of TMC supporters took to the streets to celebrate their victory as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across the country.

“It is a stupendous performance by Mamata Banerjee because Modi was determined to win Bengal, but it's clear that his entire political machinery and strategy was unable to defeat her,” said Diptendu Bhaskar, a political analyst in Kolkata, West Bengal's capital.

Over the past month, India has held its biggest elections in two years, with 175 million people eligible to vote in five regional elections.

In Assam state, the BJP managed to retain political power. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK - the main regional opposition party - secured victory.

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 was leading in 14 of the 30 seats assembly.

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 cases every day.

On Saturday, new coronavirus cases in India topped 400,000 a day, a global record, amid a surge that has overwhelmed the country's healthcare system in hard-hit cities like New Delhi.

Hospitals have been turning patients away and running out of oxygen and COVID-19 medications, leaving sick people to fend for themselves.


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