tackling a 2018 outbreak of the Nipah virus, a rare and dangerous disease.

As borders closed last year and migrant workers came home, the state’s disaster management team swung into action. Returning passengers were sent into home quarantine. If a person tested positive, local officials traced their contacts. Kerala’s testing rate has been consistently above India’s average, according to health data.

Experts say much of the credit for the system lies with K.K. Shailaja, a 64-year-old former schoolteacher who until this week was Kerala’s health minister. Her role in fighting the Nipah virus inspired a character in a 2019 movie.

drove India into recession. This year, Mr. Modi has resisted a nationwide lockdown, leaving local governments to take their own steps.

India’s states are also competing against each other for oxygen, medicine and vaccines.

“There has been a tendency to centralize decisions when things seemed under control and to deflect responsibility towards the states when things were not,” said Gilles Vernier, a professor of political science at Ashoka University.

has worsened the country’s outbreak, though they have been hindered by a lack of data. Kerala has used gene sequencing since November to track variants, helping to drive policy decisions, said Dr. Vinod Scaria, a scientist at the CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi.

“It’s the only state that has not given up at any point in time,” Dr. Scaria said, adding that “they’re eager to use evidence to drive policies.”

A political shuffle has led some experts to wonder whether Kerala can keep its gains. Earlier this week, the Communist Party of India, which controls the state government, excluded Ms. Shailaja from its cabinet. The party said it wanted to give young leaders a chance, but observers wondered whether Ms. Shailaja had grown too popular. She didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“Even the best-performing governments,” Professor Vernier of Ashoka University said, “are not immune from shooting themselves in the foot due to misguided political calculations.”

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