Top party in India trounced in state elections

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NEW DELHI -- India's governing Congress party suffered a bruising blow Sunday, losing four closely watched state elections in what is seen as a semifinal for the national vote in the spring.

The country's main opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, won power in all four states, even as the new Aam Aadmi Party, formed last year by anti-corruption crusaders, made an impressive debut here in the capital.

The elections were held in phases over the past few weeks. Some experts called Sunday's "counting day" results a clear repudiation of the Congress party, which has dominated politics in India since the days of the country's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, but lately has been stung by charges of ineptitude and corruption.

"There is no doubt that there is a massive mood against the Congress party among voters today," said Nirmala Sitharaman, a spokeswoman for the BJP. "It brought a lot of disheartened, angry voters to the polling booth. The impact of these results will now certainly have a bearing on the national elections."

In the nation's sprawling capital of 16 million people, the Aam Aadmi Party -- or the Common Man's Party, intended as an antidote to India's corrupt and entrenched political system -- won more than two dozen assembly seats. The party's leader, Arvind Kejriwal, a former social activist, defeated Sheila Dikshit, the powerful three-term chief minister.

The BJP emerged as the single largest party in Delhi, with 31 seats, but was three seats short of a majority required to form the government. The AAP won 28 seats, and the Congress party, which had governed Delhi for 15 years, took just eight.

According to the election commission results, the Congress party also lost power in Rajasthan, performed poorly in Madhya Pradesh and fell short of defeating the ruling BJP in Chhattisgarh. A fifth jurisdiction, the northeastern state of Mizoram, will learn its results today.

For the Congress party, which has been besieged by widespread public disaffection because of rising prices, a sagging economy and a string of corruption scandals, the results were seen as a wake-up call.


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