Mayawati loses power
INDIA’S ruling Congress party and its famed Gandhi political dynasty suffered a stinging election blow on Tuesday (March 6) in crucial state polls.
Figures showed Congress, which runs the federal government in New Delhi, winning clearly in only one of five states and facing a landslide defeat in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s most populous and politically significant state.
The polls were a mid-term popularity test for Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s scandal-tainted government ahead of 2014 elections and a first real appraisal of Rahul Gandhi, the next in line in India’s Nehru-Gandhi political family.
‘I stood in front, so it is my responsibility,’ Gandhi told reporters as he conceded defeat. ‘All of us in the Congress party fought. We fought well but the result which came was not so good.’
Gandhi, a 41-year-old presumed “prime-minister-in-waiting” led campaigning in Uttar Pradesh in a bid to revive Congress - his biggest challenge yet in a state where the party has a dismal record stretching back 22 years.
The failure will likely feed doubts about his ability to lead the world's biggest democracy and might rekindle interest in his sister Priyanka, whom some Gandhi loyalists still prefer.
“It is very difficult to pinpoint reasons why we didn’t do better than what we have done,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told the NDTV news channel.
Following a record high turn-out of 59.5 per cent in UP, incumbent chief minister Mayawati, a colourful low-caste leader famed for her handbags and taste for expensive statues, was also heading for a thumping defeat.
Victory appeared almost certain for the regional Samajwadi Party (SP) which is headed by a former wrestler and draws on support from low-caste farmers and Muslims.
Akhilesh Yadav, the charismatic son of SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, promised a crackdown on corruption and said the support for his party showed voters have “risen above caste and religion.”
Congress lost heavily in the holiday state Goa, where it had been in power, and lost power in the agricultural heartland of Punjab and the mountainous Uttarakhand.
Impoverished Manipur in the far northeast of India was the bright spot for Congress, where the party retained its grip on power.
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