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Communists, graft-tainted party defeated in India's regional elections

From Sumnima Udas, CNN
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, holds a press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, holds a press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday.
  • The regional elections give a boost to the prime minister's government
  • Three decades of Communist Party rule end in West Bengal
  • But the coalition loses in Tamil Nadu as a scandal hurts the DMK party

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- Election results in four major Indian states Friday marked a momentous comeback for the country's ruling Congress-led coalition, although it was undercut in one state by backlash against a graft-tainted coalition member.

Analysts say the good showing for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's coalition is a much-needed boost for the government, battered by a series of corruption scandals, rising inflation, and low investor confidence in Asia's third largest economy.

In the eastern state of West Bengal, more than three decades of communist rule came to an end as the Congress alliance led by populist leader Mamata Banerjee won a landslide victory.

The Communist Party of India also lost its strong hold in the southern state of Kerala.

Analysts say the left's Marxist economic policies seem increasingly outdated in the world's second-fastest growing major economy.

The only remaining red state in India is Tripura in the northeast, with a scant population of 3.6 million people.

Meanwhile, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the federal coalition was defeated as its key ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, lost its political monopoly.

The DMK party has been badly hit by a multibillion-dollar telecoms corruption scandal that has cost the country up to $31 billion, according to a government audit.

The man at the center of the scandal, A. Raja, is a DMK member and former telecoms minister. He was arrested last month for his alleged involvement in the selling of telecom licenses at rock-bottom prices.

"The DMK party has institutionalized corruption in Tamil Nadu for years and their defeat clearly shows voters will no longer tolerate corruption," said political analyst P. Nilotpal of the Center for Indian Political Research and Analysis.

Tamil Nadu's chief minister and the head of the DMK party, M. Karunanidhi, resigned after his party's defeat.

Karunanidhi's daughter and DMK lawmaker M.L Kanimozhi also faces charges for her alleged involvement in the telecom scandal.

A court will is expected to decide whether Kanimozhi will be sent to jail on Saturday.

"For the longest time, local elections in India were fought along caste or religious issues," Nilotpal said. "But now people are awakened, they are saying no to politicians or political families who have dominated for so many decades."

Analysts say these election results are crucial as the coalition will be in a better position to act on long-awaited reforms such as a new legislation on land acquisition. They say the regional elections could be considered a referendum ahead of the national elections in 2014.