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India's governing party trounced in state elections

| Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 8:48 p.m.
REUTERS
Supporters of Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the newly formed Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, hold brooms, the party's symbol, after Kejriwal's election win against Delhi's chief minister Sheila Dikshit, in New Delhi December 8, 2013. India's Congress party was headed for a bruising defeat in key state elections, including in the capital, early results showed on Sunday, underlining the struggle it will face to cling to power in a national election due by May. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

NEW DELHI — India's governing Congress Party suffered a bruising blow on Sunday, losing four keenly watched state elections in what is seen as a semifinal for the national vote next spring.

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

Celebrations broke out at Bharatiya Janata Party offices nationwide, with party workers exchanging marigold garlands, eating sweets, setting off firecrackers and dancing to drums. At the Aam Aadmi Party office in New Delhi, supporters in signature white caps shouted slogans and wielded brooms — their election symbol for cleaning house.

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 Bharatiya Janata Party. “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 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 Bharatiya Janata Party 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 Aam Aadmi Party won 28 seats, and the Congress Party, which had governed Delhi for 15 years, took just eight.

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