Supporters of Mamata Banerjee celebrate after the initial poll results in Kolkata on Sunday. Reuters
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to make gains in four recent state elections, according to preliminary voting trends released on Sunday by the independent Election Commission, indicating his party's political strength may be slipping as the country struggles to contain an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases.
The Election Commission’s vote forecast showed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trailing in West Bengal state behind a powerful regional party, apparently unable to dislodge the state’s firebrand chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, after a hard-fought campaign.
Modi’s party looks set to retain power in the northeastern Assam state for a second term, but failed to pick up any significant gains there or make inroads in two southern states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Even before the current virus surge, Modi’s party faced stiff challenges in these local legislative elections.
Following the disappointing results, Modi stands weakened but faces no threats to staying on as prime minister until his term ends in 2024.
"The BJP started running out of steam as the pandemic spread,” said political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.
"The verdict in West Bengal state will definitely weaken Modi’s position,” he added, but cautioned that further study of the results was needed in order to say how much they were a referendum on the BJP’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
With 70% of the vote counted in West Bengal, the rival All India Trinamool Congress party could win 211 out of 292 seats in the state legislature - having won 21 seats so far and leading in anther 190.
That's compared to potentially just 80 seats for the BJP, which has won three seats outright and leads in 77.
In Assam’s 125-seat state legislature, the BJP and its allies are ahead in the race for 75 seats, compared to 49 seats tipping toward its main challengers.
In Puducherry, a small former French colony previously known as Pondicherry, the BJP was expected to come to power through an alliance amid efforts to increase its presence in the country's south, where it has been traditionally weak.
In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, M.K. Stalin returned his DMK party to power after a decade by defeating an incumbent coalition that has the BJP as its national partner.
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.
In his first public rally after announcement of dates for the eight-phase Assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday went full-throttle against the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sustained injuries in her leg after she was allegedly attacked in Purba Medinipur's Nandigram on Wednesday.
Top BJP leaders, including Modi, have been campaigning heavily to win West Bengal and dislodge the state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, as well as retain power in northeastern Assam and expand the party’s influence in the southern states.
The shocking and heartbreaking video of the animal torture by the young psychopath sparked a wave of anger in Iraq.
Harry first senior royal to give evidence in 130 years; stokes a political storm by denouncing the government and the press as at ‘rock bottom’
Saudi media revealed that the Iranian embassy in Saudi Arabia has reopened its doors for the first time in seven years, according to an agreement that provides for the restoration of relations with Riyadh.
An eight months pregnant British-Indian woman, was among more than 700 former UK Post Office staff who were wrongly targeted, imprisoned, and classified using a "racial slur," according to fresh prosecution documents released to campaigners.