India's exit polls have indicated an edge to the regional Trinamool Congress party in the eastern state of West Bengal, where voting in local elections ended on Thursday.
The election in West Bengal was the most high-profile contest in the regional election of four states and one union territory, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP pulled out all stops for the campaign amid the coronavirus spike in the country.
Broadcast late Thursday night by various television networks, the majority of the exit polls have given an edge to the Trinamool Congress party, which has been ruling the state since 2011.
The exit polls have predicted another win for the incumbent Left Democratic Front in the Kerala state, and the BJP retaining the north-eastern state of Assam and union territory of Puducherry.
In Tamil Nadu, the polls indicate that the alliance led by the regional Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party will win the elections.
Now all eyes are on Sunday, when results will be announced for the states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, and the union territory of Puducherry. Voting ended on Thursday for the month-long elections.
The BJP, which has held power in New Delhi since 2014, has been unable to wrest control of West Bengal from the Trinamool Congress led by firebrand leader Mamata Banerjee.
While Modi’s party is claiming that it will clinch 200 seats in the 294-member assembly this time, the Trinamool Congress is sure of securing a third consecutive term in power.
Political commentators have said the elections, particularly in West Bengal, are important for Modi’s party.
“The elections are very important for BJP. … They need to show they are expanding. Also, that gives Modi a sense of authority as a winning politician,” Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, told Anadolu Agency.
The conduct of elections during a COVID-19 wave has already generated controversy in the country. India has been registering over 300,000 daily cases since April 22, severely straining the country’s health system and leading to an acute shortage of beds, oxygen, and treatment drugs.
Modi is under fire for allowing mass political and religious gatherings in recent weeks. The High Court in the northern Uttar Pradesh state, while taking a judicial note of the death of 135 persons who were put on election duty amid the pandemic, has issued a notice to the government.