Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, suffered a major blow on Sunday after his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost a key regional election amid mounting criticism of his response to the country’s catastrophic outbrea k of the coronavirus.
As the votes were counted for the state elections in West Bengal, a new daily record of 3,689 deaths from Covid was recorded on the day, along with 390,000 new infections.
Britain announced on Sunday night that it was sending 1,000 ventilators to India. It comes on top of 200 ventilators, 495 oxygen concentrators and 3 oxygen generation units dispatched last week to Indian hospitals.
Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, have also spoken to their Indian counterparts to provide advice and insight.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "The terrible images we have seen in India in recent weeks are all the more powerful because of the close and enduring 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, 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 have yet been announced.
In a victory speech, 66-year-old Ms Banerjee said West Bengal's "immediate challenge is to combat the Covid and we are confident that we will win".
"This victory has saved the humanity, the people of India. It's the victory 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, harrowing scenes in India, where sufferers of Covid 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 continues to climb, 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 on Sunday sent out desperate pleas for oxygen as their stocks 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!!"
Members of the British public and UK businesses have thrown their support behind funding drives in recent weeks.
The British Asian Trust's 'Oxygen for India' emergency appeal, which is raising funds for oxygen concentrators to be rapidly deployed to Indian hospitals, has raised more than £1.5 million in a week. The Prince of Wales has backed the initiative .
Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, insisted on Sunday that India had not formally requested any vaccines from Britain.
He said he was in close contact with Foreign Minister Jaishankar, his Indian counterpart, and was seeing him in person on Monday.
"We'll always look very carefully at any requests we've got", said Mr Raab. "We've provided oxygen concentrators, ventilators, oxygen generators and in terms of vaccines they have their contracted supply."
Pressed on India’s need for vaccines, he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: "I haven't had a request, I can tell you, on that specifically."
He added: "The Indian relationship is very important to us and we'd obviously want to cooperate very closely together."
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