India state poll results a 'big blow to Congress'

Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi looks down as he speaks to the media in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, March 6, 2012.
Image caption Rahul Gandhi was the Congress's star campaigner

The results of state elections in India are a big blow to the ruling Congress party, the country's media say.

The party suffered a major setback in Uttar Pradesh and had disappointing results in three other states, winning a clear majority only in Manipur.

An improved performance would have revived its flagging fortunes, dogged by inflation, an economic slowdown and allegations of corruption.

These polls are seen as a litmus test for national elections due by 2014.

The results are also seen as a setback for Congress's star Rahul Gandhi, who led the campaign in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.

The regional Samajwadi Party took at least 220 seats out of the 403 in Uttar Pradesh's legislative assembly, while Congress languished in fourth with fewer than 30.

"Anti-Congress", said The Indian Express in its headline.

'Crisis of authority'

"The party'sfour cardinal mistakesin this election were hubris, communalism, disingenuousness and whining," wrote analyst Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the newspaper.

"There is little aspirational about the Congress politics: it is still tethered to a discourse of noblesse oblige that is out of touch with the dynamism of a society," he wrote.

Mr Mehta added that "anti-Congressism" will get a "new lease of life" after the results as the "motive for every party is now to demonstrate that the Congress cannot govern".

"The Central government has been facing a crisis of authority. Its moral image has been battered; its capacity for negotiating with regional parties has been diminished. These results only exacerbate this crisis of authority. In the short run, expect a rocky political ride. It will take something drastic to reverse this erosion of authority."

"Anti-Congress Mood Engulfs India", wrote The Pioneer newspaper in its headline.

"The people areseething with angerover the party's terrible record of governance at the Centre - rampant corruption, runaway inflation, economic downturn and policy paralysis have conflated into a massive anti-Congress vote," the newspaper wrote.

The Hindu said the results had "dealt a"devastating blow"to the Congress.

"It doesn't help the Congress that the [main opposition Hindu nationalist] Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged with a much better score at the end of the elections, which might become a turning point for both parties in their quest for power at the Centre two years from now."

Writing in The Economic Times, election analyst Yogendra Yadav warned that the results in Uttar Pradesh did not "spell the end" of Rahul Gandhi or Mayawati, the Dalit leader, whose Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)government lost power to the Samajwadi Party.

Pointing out that big verdicts were usually a result of a"very small shift"in votes, Mr Yadav wrote that Uttar Pradesh had seen only a 4% swing of votes away from Ms Mayawati's BSP to the Samajwadi Party.

"We cannot look for mega explanations in such measured responses. We are not in the age of routine re-elections or blind anti-incumbency," Mr Yadav wrote.

The Times Of India said the Congress-led federal government now faced a "greater uncertainty".

The newspaper said that the party had paid a price by"relying excessively"on Rahul Gandhi.

"The takeaway from the party's disastrous performance in Uttar Pradesh is that he can no longer persist with his disingenuous stunt of insulating himself and his politics from the disarray at the Centre," the newspaper said.

"Loss may defeat reforms", Mint newspaper said in its headline. The defeat will "further blunt the government's appetite for policy changes," the newspaper said.

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