March 11, 2012


In India, a dynasty's tryst with decline (Reuters, March 11, 2012)

Vote tallies last week gave Congress just 28 of the 403 seats at stake for the state's legislative assembly, a miserable fourth place. 

Gandhi's performance was seen as a test of his fitness to take the reins of the party from his ailing Italian-born mother Sonia and eventually to become prime minister if Congress and its allies retain power in national elections due in 2014. 

That made the result a stinging slap for India's first family in the very state from which it rose as the beacon of freedom before independence from Britain in 1947. 

It was also another jolt to a party that has come to define itself by the Gandhi family rather than ideology or political conviction. 

The winner was the Samajwadi (Socialist) Party, a grouping founded by a former wrestler whose appeal does not extend much beyond Uttar Pradesh

Congress has been humbled before by regional parties that are often more in touch with local issues, but Gandhi's handling of the Uttar Pradesh campaign and his inability to even make a fight of it spells deep trouble for the party. 

"The Congress party is in decline," said Rashid Kidwai, who wrote a biography of Sonia Gandhi. "The problem with Congress is that they haven't looked for leaders beyond the Gandhis. There is no think tank in the party, there are no big ideas anymore." 

For all the talk of the need for change, the party's Pavlovian response has been to close ranks behind the Gandhis and insist there is nothing wrong with its strategy. 

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Posted by at March 11, 2012 9:26 AM

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