Indian Prime Minister
occasion appeared set to make vital positive factors in a fiercely contested state-level election, exit polls confirmed, after he and different politicians drew criticism for holding marketing campaign rallies attended by tens of 1000’s as a Covid-19 wave accelerated.
On Thursday, India reported yet one more world excessive for new each day instances at greater than 379,000 in a surge that has overwhelmed the healthcare system in hard-hit cities like New Delhi, the place hospitals have been turning sufferers away and working out of oxygen and Covid-19 drugs.
Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was poised to win as many as 130 seats in the West Bengal state legislature after taking solely three seats in the earlier election in 2016, in line with an aggregation of six exit polls reported by New Delhi Television.
That nonetheless would put the prime minister’s occasion behind the state’s governing Trinamool Congress occasion, which the exit polls indicated would maintain on to 152 seats. The occasion is led by
a robust regional politician who has at instances been an outspoken critic of Mr. Modi.
Indian exit polls have at instances been unreliable. The official tally is due on Sunday.
The outcomes don’t replicate public sentiment over Mr. Modi’s dealing with of the most recent Covid-19 surge. Much of the voting came about earlier than the rise in instances was a full-blown disaster. But the best way the marketing campaign was performed has been on the middle of an offended debate over what fueled the present coronavirus wave.
Mr. Modi has been criticized for holding huge rallies in April, at the same time as new each day case numbers had been exceeding 200,000 and climbing. Other events additionally held massive rallies, usually with folks crowding shut collectively. In some instances events introduced employees and supporters from different states to hitch the marketing campaign in West Bengal.
“You’ve shown such strength. Wherever I look, I can only see people,” Mr. Modi mentioned on April 17, as he addressed a crowd of about 150,000, in line with an estimate from a senior native BJP chief.
West Bengal reported over 17,400 new instances on Thursday, its highest single-day tally to date. When the election dates had been first introduced on Feb. 26, the state reported 216 new each day instances. Health consultants say the rallies might have been one of many elements resulting in the surge.
The BJP canceled the ultimate rallies of the marketing campaign, mentioned nationwide occasion spokesman
Gopal Krishna Agarwal.
He mentioned nobody anticipated the magnitude of the surge the nation is now battling, and in hindsight, extra precautions might have been taken.
But he mentioned Mr. Modi and different members of the BJP adopted all the protection protocols in place on the time.
“There were huge rallies by all parties. All parties are to be blamed, not just BJP,” mentioned
Raj Kamal Pathak,
state vp for BJP. “When the rallies were taking place, Covid cases weren’t expected to rise so much.”
Even although the rallies came about exterior in the open air they may have contributed considerably to the virus’s unfold with so many individuals in such shut proximity, mentioned
a health care provider and public well being specialist based mostly in Kolkata.
West Bengal is without doubt one of the final remaining Hindu-majority states that isn’t managed by Mr. Modi’s BJP. The state’s chief minister for the final 10 years, 66-year-old Ms. Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, has resisted many insurance policies of the central authorities led by Mr. Modi and his occasion, together with a legislation that eases the trail to citizenship for all immigrants besides Muslims from India’s Muslim-majority neighbors.
During election speeches, Mr. Modi and different BJP leaders mentioned Ms. Banerjee is nurturing a “policy of appeasement” of Muslims in the state. Muslims accounted for 27% of the state’s greater than 91 million folks in 2011, the newest census.
“This time, the discourses of identity politics have been drummed up,” Saumya Chakrabarti, head of the division for economics and politics at Visva-Bharati college, wrote in an e mail.
West Bengal holds particular significance in Indian historical past, tradition and politics. The motion for the Indian subcontinent’s independence from British rule took root and gathered momentum in Bengal, an space that features the state of West Bengal and what’s now Bangladesh. Some of contemporary India’s most influential nationwide icons—from Nobel Prize-winning poet
to Hindu religious chief Vivekananda—had been from Bengal.
The significance of West Bengal to Indian nationwide discourse is commonly captured in a sentence that leaders, together with Prime Minister Modi, have usually used: “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.”
“BJP was not at all popular in West Bengal and not at all an important political force in the elections, but now for the first time after independence, BJP is playing a crucial role in the elections” in the state, mentioned
dean of humanities and social sciences at Presidency University in Kolkata.
Mr. Pathak, the BJP chief, mentioned the occasion expects to win extra seats than projected by the exits polls, sufficient to dethrone Ms. Banerjee.
“West Bengal must be in the hands of BJP to save India from terrorists since it’s a border state where so much infiltration is happening,” Mr. Pathak mentioned. “We want to make West Bengal a golden state of India again.”
Write to Krishna Pokharel at [email protected]
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