Poll drubbing leaves Gandhi dynasty 'fighting for survival'

May 17 2014, 12:57 IST
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Nehru-Gandhi dynasty faces a fight for its very survival after an election drubbing at the hands of Narendra Modi. (PTI) Nehru-Gandhi dynasty faces a fight for its very survival after an election drubbing at the hands of Narendra Modi. (PTI)
SummaryNehru-Gandhi dynasty, the towering force of Indian politics for the best part of a century, is now fighting for future.

India's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, the towering force of Indian politics for the best part of a century, faces a fight for its very survival after an election drubbing at the hands of opposition leader Narendra Modi.

Often described as the country's answer to a royal family, with the added tragic glamour of the Kennedys, the dynasty gave India its first prime minister, the empire-beating barrister Jawaharlal Nehru.

His daughter, Indira Gandhi, and grandson, Rajiv, both held the post subsequently, and both were assassinated.

Friday's electoral humiliation risks consigning the family that has ruled India for most of its 67 years since independence to political oblivion, as Modi, who cast the Gandhis as elitist throughout his campaign, looks to sideline them for good.

By some measures, the family was in decline long before the parliamentary election; it has not won a majority in decades.

But the sheer scale of Modi's victory this time around, dealing the Gandhis' Congress party its worst election defeat ever, underlines how deeply that decay had spread.

"The Congress has done pretty badly, there is a lot for us to think about. As vice president of the party I hold myself responsible," said Nehru's great-grandson Rahul Gandhi, who was consistently outshone by Modi on the campaign trail.

Gandhi was flanked by his mother, Rajiv's widow Sonia, who also delivered a brief concession speech, taking a swipe at Modi's Hindu nationalist policies that she says are divisive.

"We hope the government that will be formed in the centre will not compromise the unity of Indian society and the interests of the country," she said, while also shouldering blame for the debacle.

Shy scion Rahul's bid to keep Congress in power for a third consecutive term was called lacklustre even by allies, and his speeches at rallies up and down the country in recent months were a far cry from Nehru's legendary rhetoric.

Compare that with Modi's electrifying campaign, during which he repeatedly derided Rahul, 43, and Sonia for keeping India poor, and the house of Gandhi looked vulnerable.

Few would write off the clan completely. Sonia, the power behind the prime ministerial throne occupied by Manmohan Singh, delivered Congress its worst result to date in 1999. She then led the party to victory in the next two elections, and a year ago Forbes ranked her as the world's ninth-most-powerful woman.

The party faithful, while reeling as partial results on Friday showed Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led in more

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