the emergence of more dangerous variants and the sluggish vaccine campaign, is believed to have fueled the staggering number of infections, the worst numbers the world has seen.

The West Bengal election was held in stages, beginning in late March and running through last week. Many critics said it should have been called off, or that rallies, at the very least, should have been stopped.

But that did not happen. Mr. Modi’s party went on the attack, telling Hindu voters that if they didn’t vote for Mr. Modi’s party, their most deeply held religious beliefs might be in danger.

Ms. Banerjee, 66, who has led the state for a decade, dismissed that as nonsense. Long popular among Muslims and other minorities, she also appealed directly to Hindus, painting the B.J.P. as outsiders to her state who were intent on stirring up trouble.

Mr. Modi traveled to West Bengal about a dozen times for packed rallies (often failing to wear a mask, along with many people in the crowds). His face was so ubiquitous that people joked that he seemed to be running for chief minister, the top state-level executive in India’s decentralized system.

Ms. Banerjee’s campaign slogan was simple and nativist: “Bengal chooses its own daughter.”

Even with this likely loss, Mr. Modi’s party is by far the dominant political outfit in India, and there is no other political figure who comes close to his popularity.

Still, given how hard he fought to win West Bengal, some analysts saw Sunday’s results as a blow to him, with Ms. Banerjee and other regional figures — specifically, M.K. Stalin in Tamil Nadu and Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala — gaining strength.

“This government is now battling a public backlash on their mishandling of the Covid pandemic,” said Arati Jerath, a well-known political commentator. “I think it is bad news for Modi that three powerful regional chieftains are emerging from these elections.”

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