India’s Ruling Congress Party Suffers Election Blow

An election official shows an electronic voting machine to poll agents at a counting station in Lucknow, India, March 6, 2012.
An election official shows an electronic voting machine to poll agents at a counting station in Lucknow, India, March 6, 2012.
Anjana Pasricha

India’s ruling Congress Party has suffered a political blow, faring poorly in a round of regional elections. The party won only one out of five states. The elections also dealt a severe blow to Congress Party's Rahul Gandhi, the latest member of the powerful Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty expected to take the center stage of Indian politics.

In India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, the Congress Party had hoped to make substantial gains following months of intensive campaigning by key leader Rahul Gandhi.
But the Congress Party trailed behind regional parties to emerge in distant fourth place in what is seen as the country’s most crucial state politically.  The Congress has not been in power in Uttar Pradesh for more than 20 years.

The clear winner in the state, the socialist Samajwadi Party, was set to oust the ruling low-caste party, the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Gandhi admitted the results “were not good,"  but says his work to strengthen the party will continue.

“I view my work as trying to improve the political system of this country and that will continue," he said. "I will continue to do that. Certainly, I expect to have victories along the way and I expect to have defeats and this is one of the defeats.”

Disappointment was also in store for the Congress Party in other states. It retained power in northeastern Manipur state, but is set to lose the tiny western state, Goa, to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. And, despite improving its performance, Congress failed to score a victory in the northern Punjab state. It is caught in a close fight with the opposition BJP in Uttarakhand.

The elections were seen as a litmus test for the Congress Party halfway through its second term as head of the federal coalition. In the last two years it has been tainted by a series of corruption scandals and has been battling high inflation, allowing the government to come under fire from even its political allies. Congress Party leaders had hoped that a strong showing in these polls would give their party a much-needed shot in the arm.

Independent political analyst Prem Shankar Jha in New Delhi says the Congress Party depended too heavily on the powerful Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to rescue its political fortunes.

“What has this election done?  It has smashed the idea of charisma," said Prem Shankar Jha. "The Congress went to UP purely on the charisma of the Gandhi family and got precisely nowhere.”

After his campaign failed to translate into votes, questions will be raised whether Rahul Gandhi, widely tipped as a future prime minister, has what it takes to emerge as a national leader.

However, Prem Shankar Jha says that, despite the disappointment the Congress Party has suffered, the election results provide an opportunity for the party to rework its strategy and revive its flagging fortunes ahead of national elections scheduled for 2014.

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Comment Sorting
by: ranjit
March 09, 2012 1:27 AM
why u people r not resolve two issue in india
1,bring back black money in india
2.cantrol corruption jan lok pal pass
why u people r not doing two small work for indian all problem related with this issue

by: Tara
March 06, 2012 11:30 PM
Since the independence Congress has taken advantage of illiterate people of India to further the intersts of the party and Nehru/Indira Gandhi family. It is since Indira Gandhi the goonism, corruption and divide and rule ploicy has advanced beyond limits. Now the people have become more advanced to show the congress its destination.

by: jay
March 06, 2012 3:55 PM
The congress residues of Britishers consider the people of India as slaves. Though the oldest and largest party they haven't courage to criticize their leaders on wrong decisions, but act as YES men.Even after 65 years they cannot think beyond NEHRUISM or INDIRAISM nor can survive and see beyond these two isms and this family.There is something secret beyond the cognizance of people of INDIA , as to why all congressmen are subconsciously led by 2 isms.

by: Jay
March 06, 2012 10:10 AM
I agree with sanjay absolutely, they work for the people not for the party.

by: Jaishankar
March 06, 2012 10:04 AM
Who is Rahul Gandhi?

by: Sanjay
March 06, 2012 9:44 AM
Note that Rahul Gandhi repeatedly talks about strengthening his party, rather than his country. It's more than a mere Freudian slip. For members of the Congress Party, it's the party which is uppermost in their hearts and minds. The public and their needs, concerns or interests simply don't matter. Their focus is always about advancing the interests of their party, rather than on advancing the public interest. Perhaps that's an indicator of why they lost.

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