Modi suffers vote blow as Covid rages across India



NARENDRA MODI, the Indian prime minister, suffered a blow yesterday after his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] lost a key regional election amid criticism of his response to the country’s outbreak of coronavirus.

s the votes were counted for the state elections in West Bengal, a new daily record of 3,689 deaths from Covid-19 was recorded, along with 390,000 new infections.

Britain announced last night that it was sending 1,000 ventilators to India. The gesture came after 200 ventilators, 495 oxygen concentrators and three oxygen generation units were dispatched last week to Indian hospitals.

Professor Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, have also spoken to their Indian counterparts to provide advice and insight.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last night: “The terrible images we have seen in India in recent weeks are all the more powerful because of the [connection] between the people of the UK and India.”

Mr Modi and his cabinet ministers had hoped to gain a majority in the opposition-controlled state of West Bengal, holding massive rallies attended by millions of people, many of them not wearing face masks.

The opposition party Trinamool Congress won 216 seats while BJP secured only 75 seats in the 294-seat assembly, a clear indication that Mr Modi’s response to the pandemic is hurting him at the ballot box.

It means that Mamata Banerjee, a powerful Trinamool Congress politician and prominent critic of Mr Modi, will serve a third term as chief minister of West Bengal.

Mr Modi conceded the election in a Twitter post, though official results had not yet been announced.

In a victory speech, 66-year-old Ms Banerjee said West Bengal’s “immediate challenge is to combat the Covid-19 and we are confident that we will win”.

“This victory has saved the humanity, the people, of India,” she added.

Shashi Tharoor, an MP from the opposition party Indian National Congress, told The Telegraph: “The Bengal win… showed the BJP’s electoral juggernaut is not invincible. And it reasserts the value of a federal India where the states resist the overweening power of the centre.”

Elections were also held in four states and an Indian union territory in late March and April, coinciding with the emergence of India’s vicious second wave, which has overwhelmed the country’s weak healthcare system.

Both Mr Modi and his home affairs minister Amit Shah have been accused of prioritising politics over their response to the humanitarian crisis created by the pandemic.

There have been chaotic scenes in India where sufferers of Covid-19 have died on trolleys outside hospitals due to a lack of oxygen supplies.

On Saturday alone, 28 patients, including 12 in Delhi, died as a result of oxygen shortages.

As the infection rate climbs, several states in India are grappling with a shortage of vaccines while many hospitals have run out of beds and ventilators, as well as various medicines.

At least three hospitals in Delhi sent out desperate pleas for oxygen yesterday as their stocks of the life-saving gas dwindled.

The Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research in south Delhi said it only had liquid oxygen supplies available and was seeking immediate help.

The hospital said on Twitter: “45 Covid patients admitted. Need liquid oxygen supply by 5pm. Help!!”

A leading Indian industry body yesterday urged authorities to take the “strongest national steps” and to curtail economic activity to save lives as cases surge.

The rate of new infections dipped marginally but deaths kept climbing.

Authorities reported 392,488 new cases in the previous 24 hours, pushing total cases to 19.56 million.

Deaths jumped by a record 3,689, taking the overall toll to 215,542.

(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021) 

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]



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