India’s ruling Congress party loses in key state

India’s governing Congress party has suffered a defeat in the politically important state of Uttar Pradesh, reported the BBC.

Rahul Gandhi, largely seen as the next prime ministerial candidate, had campaigned heavily in India’s most populous state, but early returns from the voting showed Congress coming in fourth place, said the Associated Press.

Gandhi said, “I led this campaign and I was the person in front. The responsibility is mine.” He represents the next generation of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, the son of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the grandson of former prime minister Indira Gandhi and the great grandson of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

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The election results could cripple an already embattled Congress which is struggling to advance its political agenda in New Delhi and facing criticism over corruption scandals and slow decision making, noted The New York Times. The poor election results reduce Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s capacity to revive reforms and reverse the slowdown in India’s economy.

The regional, socialist Samajwadi party looked set to take the lead, with enough votes to form a government on their own. The Guardian reported that Congress looked set to lose in Punjab as well, but was leading in Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.

Amulya Ganguli, a political analyst, told the Guardian, “It has been a disaster for the Congress, it's an even bigger disaster for Rahul Gandhi and the Gandhi family. They were banking on success in these elections, hoping to get at least four out of five states. It has gone exactly the opposite way. It shows that there is no charisma left in the Gandhi family.”

The defeat is seen as especially significant for Gandhi who campaigned hard in the state with 200 million people, which Congress has not ruled for 22 years. According to Reuters, he attended more than 200 rallies, slept in huts and grew a beard. His performance in this election campaign was largely seen as a test for whether he was ready to take over the party’s reins from his mother Sonia Gandhi.

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