Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party has lost in West Bengal, with ballots also being counted in four other Indian states. Elections were held along with mass political rallies, despite the surge in COVID cases.
The Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) defeated Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the key state of West Bengal on Sunday. Election officials in India also counted votes with coronavirus safety protocols from four other states after elections were held in March and April.
TMC founder Mamata Banerjee, 66, has won a third term as chief minister of West Bengal. She is one of the toughest critics of Modi's leadership and is India's only female chief minister.
"It is a stupendous performance by Mamata Banerjee because Modi was determined to win Bengal, but it's clear that his entire political machinery was unable to defeat her," Bengal-based political analyst Diptendu Bhaskar told Reuters news agency.
Modi congratulated Banerjee in a tweet.
In addition to West Bengal, the states of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the centrally administered union territory of Puducherry also declared results for state assembly elections.
The BJP has managed to remain in control in Assam, according to the latest results, but has lost to the main regional opposition party, the DMK, in Tamil Nadu.
In Kerala, the Left Democratic Front, led by Pinarayi Vijayan, managed to score a victory. In Puducherry, an alliance led by the All India National Congress Party, an ally of the BJP, scored victory.
Critics have strongly condemned all political parties, including Modi's ruling BJP, for conducting massive campaign rallies, especially in the states of West Bengal and Assam. The rallies were held in spite of the sharp rise in COVID cases, as India goes through its worst spell since the beginning of the pandemic.
While some parties stopped their rallies on account of the surge in cases, others continued to hold mass gatherings.
The Election Commission of India has banned victory rallies for the state elections after being sternly criticized by a state High Court for allowing massive campaign gatherings and rallies to continue despite India's second wave.
The Madras High Court last week said the Election Commission "should be put up on murder charges" for not being able to follow COVID-19 protocol during the elections. The commission, in turn, has appealed to India's top court against the "uncalled for, blatantly disparaging and derogatory remarks" by the lower court.
Modi has been criticized for concentrating on state elections instead of tackling the pandemic on an urgent basis.