India's ruling Congress party leads in three key state polls

Thursday, October 22, 2009

India's ruling Congress Party-led alliance scored victories in elections held in three states to choose local governments. The results will boost the Congress Party, as it re-emerges as the country's major political force. The results from the elections, which were held last week, began to come in on Thursday.

The party and its allies scored clear wins in two states: the western state of Maharashtra and the northeastern Arunachal Pradesh state. In the northern Haryana state, it emerged as the largest party, but failed to secure a majority. The largest and most influential of these states is Maharashtra state, an industrialized region which is home to India's financial capital, Mumbai.

"The government has worked in the last five years, and I feel that is the reason why we have been able to achieve this success," said Ashok Chavan, the state's Chief Minister. "People have shown confidence, placing us in a position to form a government."

The Congress and its ally are currently ahead in 145 out of 288 seats in the Maharashtra state. If they manage to obtain those seats, it would enable them create a government without the help of other parties.

According to election commission figures, the main opposition alliance, consisting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, were leading in around ninety seats in the Maharashtra state.

This is the second time this year that the Congress Party has emerged victorious in key polls. Five months ago, the party scored a victory in national elections over the BJP.

Thursday's results have widely been seen as another major vote of confidence for the party, and its national leadership. Political analysts have suggested that this will help the national government, as it presses ahead with its policies, which include economic reforms.

Professor of History at Delhi University and political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan said that the Congress Party's winning streak showed its reemergence as a major political force. "It is continuing to retain its hold on large and very popular states, so it is in the process of re-emerging as the pivot of the Indian political system," he said.

"Overall, this does indicate the secular shift of the voters towards the Congress as a party that can combine stability with inclusive growth. That trend which was clear in the recent general elections continues in the winter of 2009."

After dominating Indian politics for decades, the Congress Party began to decline in the mid-1990's as the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power. However, the BJP's series of losses in recent elections have considerably weakened it.