India's ruling Congress party and its famed Gandhi political dynasty suffered a stinging election blow yesterday in crucial state polls.
Figures showed Congress, which runs the federal government in New Delhi, winning clearly in only one of five states and facing a landslide defeat in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous and politically significant state.
The polls were a mid-term popularity test for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's scandal-tainted government ahead of 2014 elections and a first real appraisal of Rahul Gandhi, the next in line in India's Nehru-Gandhi political family.
Gandhi, a 41-year-old presumed "prime-minister-in-waiting" led campaigning in Uttar Pradesh in a bid to revive Congress.
The failure will likely feed doubts about his ability to lead the world's biggest democracy and might rekindle interest in his sister Priyanka, whom some Gandhi loyalists still prefer.
The elections in the five states were held in stages over the last five weeks, beginning on January 28 in Manipur and finishing at the weekend in UP and Goa.