Election result signals huge challenges ahead for Modi

4 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party lost an election in a key state he visited frequently before the recent virus surge forced him off the campaign trail, adding to growing signs of a backlash over his government’s handling of the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, reports NDTV.

In West Bengal, incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress won around 72% of 292 seats up for grabs, while PM Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party took 77, according to results posted on the Election Commission of India on Monday. Last month, the prime minister predicted his party would win more than 200 seats in the state, which held voting over eight phases starting on March 27.

Modi’s opponents won in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, while his party kept power in the northeastern state of Assam and gained the federally-controlled territory of Puducherry, where it contested in alliance with a regional party. He conceded West Bengal in a series of posts on Twitter, congratulating Banerjee while also noting the BJP made gains in the state.

India’s S&P BSE Sensex, fell 1.1% to 48,248.64 at 9:25 a.m. In Mumbai, on course for a one-week low. The benchmark gauge gained 1% so far this year.

The focus now will be how well policymakers are able to minimize the socio-economic cost of Covid-19, said Madhavi Arora, economist at Emkay Global Financial Services Ltd. “It could also have implications for 2022 state elections,” Arora said, including the major states BJP-held states of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

Grim scenes of overcrowded crematoriums and pleas for oxygen have overshadowed the election in recent weeks, with PM Modi coming under fire for campaigning in front of huge crowds as infections were spiraling. Daily deaths in India hit a record 3,689 on Sunday, while the number of cases slowed slightly after the country became the first to cross the mark of 400,000 cases in a day.

The results weaken the government and indicate there are “huge political and constitutional challenges ahead for PM Modi.”