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India's Ruling Congress Party Fares Well in State Elections


India's ruling Congress Party is set to win three of five states, in recent elections, despite fears it would suffer a political setback because of a series of terror attacks in the country and a slowing economy. These victories will give the ruling party a major boost, as it prepares for national elections next year.

The Congress Party, which heads the federal coalition, had much to celebrate as votes were counted Monday from five states which chose local governments, in the past month.

The Congress Party retained hold of Delhi for a third term and emerged victorious in the remote northeastern state, Mizoram. It is set to wrest control of Rajasthan from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP retained power in the central state, Madhya Pradesh and is the front-runner in Chattisgarh.

The elections in the five states were held months before the country heads into national elections.

Criticism turns to victory for Congress Party

Two of the states - Delhi and Rajasthan - voted days after terror strikes in Mumbai killed 175 people and unleashed a wave of anger across the country. The Mumbai attacks were the latest in a series of terror strikes this year that have hit other cities, including Delhi and the capital of Rajasthan (Jaipur).

The attacks had raised the specter of a political battering for the Congress Party, which the opposition BJP slammed for being weak and unable to defend the nation. The BJP had turned security into a major issue, particularly after the terror strikes in Mumbai.

But relieved Congress Party officials say its victories in Delhi and Rajasthan show that the issue did not impact voters.

Analyst says using terror to score political points, not a good idea

Science and technology minister and senior Congress Party leader, Kapil Sibal, says terror is a national concern and should not have been used to score political points.

"People are far too mature, especially in cosmopolitan centers, to be taken in by this crass propaganda," Sibal noted. "This was a national calamity and people were expressing great national concern and in the midst of that to try and take political advantage of it ought not to have been done by a responsible party."

Election results viewed as setback for BJP

Some political analysts called the results a disappointment for the BJP, which had been on a winning streak in the last year when it won several state elections.

Political analyst, Swapan Daspgupta, told television the BJP's hopes of building on its earlier successes have suffered a setback, as it gears up for national elections next year.

"I think this is a reality check for the BJP," Daspgupta said. "It is not a disaster, it is almost a draw. The mere fact that they had expected a clean sweep suggests it might be a disappointment for them."

The Congress Party's better-than-expected performance will give it fresh momentum and help it to cement crucial political alliances, ahead of the national polls. The Congress Party must hold national elections by May next year, when its five-year term expires. The recent victories may prompt the government to call elections sooner rather than later.

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