The party of India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has failed to win the state of West Bengal in a state election that was held amidst an explosion of Covid-19 cases and deaths, Reuters and the BBC reported.
Results on Sunday, May 2, showed that 66-year-old Mamata Banerjee, the incumbent, was set to hold on to West Bengal, with her party, the Trinamool Congress, sweeping over 200 out of 294 seats in the state assembly.
The same day also saw India set a new record of 3,689 daily deaths, taking the death toll to 215,542, while authorities reported 392,488 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 19.56 million, Reuters reported.
The real toll is thought to be far higher, however, with experts pointing to low testing rates and the number of people who have died at home, particularly in rural areas, as contributing to the under-reporting of numbers.
What has been the reaction to the results?
In a tweet, Modi congratulated Banerjee for her win, and added that the government would continue to help West Bengal overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.
Congratulations to Mamata Didi for @AITCofficial's win in West Bengal. The Centre will continue to extend all possible support to the West Bengal Government to fulfil people’s aspirations and also to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. @MamataOfficial— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 2, 2021
In another tweet, Modi also thanked people who had voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the party winning nearly 80 seats, up from three in the previous election in 2016.
পশ্চিমবঙ্গবাসী ভাইবোনেরা, যারা আমাদের দলকে ভোট দিয়েছেন,তাদের আমি ধন্যবাদ জানাতে চাই। অতীতের এক নগণ্য উপস্থিতি থেকে শুরু করে, বিজেপি'র গুরুত্ব, আজ যথেষ্ট বেড়েছে। বিজেপি মানুষের জন্যে কাজ করে যাবে। এই নির্বাচনে সমস্ত কার্যকর্তার উৎসাহব্যঞ্জক অংশগ্রহন, প্রশংসনীয়।— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 2, 2021
The leader of the opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, also extended his congratulations to Banerjee for "soundly defeating" the BJP, despite losing several seats in the state.
I’m happy to congratulate Mamata ji and the people of West Bengal for soundly defeating the BJP.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 2, 2021
For her part, Banerjee has said that addressing Covid-19 would be her first priority and that India, had been "saved" by the election results, according to the BBC.
West Bengal elections marked by highest-rise in Covid-19 cases for any Indian state
The course of the West Bengal election has since been marked by the highest surge of Covid-19 cases for any Indian state, with large election rallies blamed.
Criticism has also been mounting over Modi's decision to hold rallies in the state, with a lack of social distancing and wearing of masks among attendees.
The convener of the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum, Punyabrata Goon, said:
"There is no doubt that the election process led to the spread of corona in West Bengal. Till February and March, Bengal had the disease under control.
But as campaigning started with large crowds and people coming in from affected states, cases started shooting up."
He also highlighted that the Electoral Commission did not take action when cases began to rise, with letters from the Forum in March being ignored.
West Bengal is one of the few states in India where the BJP does not hold a majority.
Top photo by Atul Loke/Getty Images