NEW DELHI — One of India’s feistiest opposition parties was leading in early results on Sunday from elections in the state of West Bengal, a closely watched race held during a catastrophic surge of Covid-19 infections.
Top parties had campaigned relentlessly in West Bengal, one of India’s most populous states and a stronghold of opposition to Narendra Modi, the powerful prime minister. Even with cases soaring and more and more people dying across India, Mr. Modi and other politicians held enormous rallies up and down the state, which critics said helped to spread the disease.
By early Sunday afternoon, Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was trailing despite its heavy investment in West Bengal, a prize it desperately wanted to win. The party looked likely to win more seats in the state assembly than it did in the last election — a sign of how dominant it has become nationwide. Nevertheless, the All India Trinamool Congress party, which holds power in the state, seemed to be safely ahead.
Mamata Banerjee, India’s only female chief minister, who has developed her own cult of personality and a reputation as a street fighter strong enough to ward off the most withering attacks from the B.J.P., as Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist party is commonly known.
very divisive religious and citizenship issues, will remain a stronghold of the B.J.P.