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India’s Rahul Gandhi defends seat in election

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Published : 2014-05-07 20:36
Updated : 2014-05-07 20:36

NEW DELHI (AFP) ― Rahul Gandhi, scion of India’s political dynasty and front man for the ruling Congress party, defends his own parliamentary seat on Wednesday as the world’s biggest general election enters its final stages.

More than 95 million voters are eligible to vote in the penultimate leg of the election that ends on May 12, with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party expected to oust Congress from power after 10 years.

Gandhi, 43, who has failed to turn around a flailing Congress campaign, will be fighting for his political future with his northern constituency of Amethi among 64 in which voters are heading to the polls.

The challenge facing Gandhi was underscored this week when opposition frontrunner Narendra Modi held a rally in Amethi, a Gandhi stronghold for more than 30 years, and declared nothing could save the dynasty.

Modi, 63, a Hindu nationalist hardliner who has campaigned on reviving the flagging economy, taunted Gandhi on his home turf, urging voters to “break ties with the family” that has produced three prime ministers.

“The fight is now for the relevance of the Gandhi family as unquestioned leaders of the Congress,” Modi told the Times of India in an interview published Tuesday.

Opinion polls show voters have turned against Congress over massive graft scandals, spiraling inflation and a sharp economic slowdown.

With Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, the BJP is expected to win the most seats in the 543-member parliament, but will likely fall short of an outright majority. Results are announced on May 16.

Analysts say Modi, the son of a tea-stall owner, was stepping up his bitter attack on the Gandhi family by appearing in Amethi, as he senses victory in the five-week-long election.

“Modi wanted to hit the last nail in the coffin. His visit (to Amethi) was aimed directly at Rahul, a direct blow,” Delhi-based veteran political analyst and commentator Amulya Ganguli said.

“But even then, there is only a faint possibility of Rahul losing (his seat),” he added.

Congress has ruled India for most of the period since independence in 1947 and is synonymous with the Nehru-Gandhi clan which includes party president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul’s mother.

But Ganguli said the Gandhis themselves could face internal party revolt if Congress failed to win at least 100 seats.

“Their (Gandhi) utility is to make the party win and if they can‘t even do that, then that will spell big trouble for the dynasty,” Ganguli said.

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