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India's Bihar State Re-elects Reformist Chief Minister

Bihar state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, center, displays the victory sign during a press conference after his National Democratic Alliance won the state elections, in Patna, India, Nov. 24, 2010. Kumar, the top elected official of one of India's poorest

In India, a leader of a regional party credited with focusing on bringing development to one of the country's poorest states has been re-elected. The results were a blow for the ruling Congress Party, which was trounced in the state.

As the governing coalition in Bihar led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar clocked up an impressive win, he called it a victory vote for progress and good governance. He said it is clear that Bihar's people want their state to be on the road to success.

Nitish Kumar belongs to the regional Janata Dal United Party and governs Bihar in alliance with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

During his five-year tenure, the reformist chief minister brought about significant improvements in a state which was one of India's most lawless, poor and underdeveloped. Economic growth during his rule was over 11 percent, higher than the national average. Roads and other infrastructure were built. Most importantly, law and order improved in a state where the high crime rate kept most people indoors after dark.

Earlier this year, in a report, the World Bank said there were visible signs of a turnaround in the state following reforms which included higher public spending.

The election results are also a setback for caste-based politics which has dominated the state for years. Political analysts said the results showed that people had opted for leaders who will deliver better governance rather than vote along traditional caste lines.

Bihar, with a population of over 80 million, is a key state for national parties. The election results also buoyed the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which fared well.

But they were a disappointment for the Congress Party, which heads the federal coalition. The Congress Party has been trying to rebuild its base in the state, but only managed to win a handful of seats.

The leader of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, admitted the party had not done well.

"The results, of course, indicate that our party has to start from scratch to rebuild itself [in Bihar] and that is what we plan to do," said Gandhi.

The Congress Party has been reeling under a massive corruption scandal involving sale of telecom licenses. People have also been angered by persistently high inflation, which is hurting millions of poor people in the country.