Voters deliver unprecedented snub to Gandhi clan as Congress crushed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 11:22pm


The family that has dominated Indian politics for most of its post-colonial history has been snubbed by voters like never before.

In a campaign led by Rahul Gandhi - the son, grandson and great-grandson of Indian prime ministers - the Congress party suffered the most crushing defeat in its 128-year history yesterday.

Gandhi, the 43-year-old family scion, had been presented to voters as a youthful leader who could rejuvenate India's faltering economy, but many saw him as privileged, aloof and out of touch. In a decade in the Indian parliament, Gandhi rarely spoke or raised questions and failed to spend funds allotted for the development of his constituency. In recent state elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states, where Gandhi led the campaigns, the party fared dismally.

"Rahul is seen as being well-meaning and harmless. But he is devoid of ideas, or a grand vision for what he wants to do for the country," said Sumit Chakravartty, a political analyst and editor of Mainstream weekly. "He's a poor communicator. When he does speak, what emerges is further evidence of his fuzzy thinking."

Political analysts say the party's decline has been evident for years, particularly as the economy slumped and a succession of corruption scandals emerged. But some also consider the party's dependence on one family to be a liability.

Even in the Amethi constituency, considered a Gandhi stronghold, loyalties were wavering during the campaign.

Despite the Gandhi family's waning popularity, it would be premature to dismiss them entirely. The family, which has been likened to America's Kennedy dynasty, remains a subject of fascination in India.

"The Congress party is not going to disappear. The party has the vitality to reinvent itself. This could be a temporary setback," said Inder Malhotra, a journalist best known for his biography of Indira Gandhi.

Associated Press