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Communists take a beating in polls

Congress rides out scandals as Marxists swept away in West Bengal and Kerala

Communists take a beating in polls
Voters line up to have their say in India's state elections staff, New Delhi

May 13, 2011

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Trinamool (grassroots) Congress party swept to power in West Bengal in a landslide that ended 34 years of uninterrupted rule in that state by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The Marxists also lost power to the Congress party in Kerala, a Christian stronghold, after five years in power. The elections are being seen as a mini-referendum of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the national ruling coalition. Trinamool Congress was founded 13 years ago by Mamata Banerjee,  an ally of the UPA presently the Federal Railway Minister. Her party won more than 75 percent of the 294-seat assembly. Assam, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu also went to the polls from April 4-May 10. The Congress party, which heads the UPA, managed to ride out a series of corruption charges to retain power in Assam and win back Kerala. Disillusioned voters, however, denied Congress a decisive victory in the southern state with a slim majority of one, with 71 seats in the 140-member house. Christians in Kerala traditionally vote Congress, but after the party refused to field their candidates, some Catholics launched their own party. Two Catholic dioceses also fielded their own candidates. In Tamil Nadu,  the Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (DMK, progressive party of Dravidians), a Congress party ally, was routed by its main rival, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam, headed by Jayalalithaa Jayaram, a Hindu woman. Observers blame the corruption scandals for its defeat. Many DMK leaders still face corruption charges and one was jailed in the 2G Spectrum case that caused the federal government a US$44 billion loss. The Congress in Assam is set to return to power for the third consecutive term leading in 75 of the 126-seat assembly while in the 30-seat assembly in Puducherry, the All India NR Congress and its allies are so far leading or won in 18 seats while the Congress party alliance in 9. Christian groups and others in West Bengal welcomed a change of government saying they wanted leaders who would take the state forward with people-oriented policies. Father Santanam Irudya Raj of Calcutta archdiocese said that the Marxists had been in power for too long. Related reports Church leaders forecast political change Christians launch political party IA14221

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