Is This the Beginning of the End for the Gandhis?

The World
How It Works
May 16 2014 12:41 PM

Is This the Beginning of the End for the Gandhis?

Vice President Rahul Gandhi addresses a press conference at Congress Party headquarters in New Delhi on May 16, 2014.

Photo by RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

Narendra Modi’s BJP has won India’s election and won big. With 339 seats of the 543 in India’s parliament, the Lok Sabha, the BJP has a mandate to govern without forming a coalition with smaller parties. The Hindu nationalist party appears to have racked up sizeable gains even in areas with large Muslim populations.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

The markets are elated at the pro-business Modi’s victory, though there are fears about what it will mean  for India’s religious minorities and secular liberals. Though Modi, who will likely never fully escape his controversial role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, has himself has toned down the nationalist rhetoric, not all of his party subordinates got the message.


In addition to what Modi’s tenure will mean for Indian politics, the election also raises questions about the future of one of the India’s most powerful political dynasty.

The Gadhi-Nehru family has dominated Indian politics since independence with Jawaharlal Nehru serving as the first prime minister, his daughter Indira and grandson Rajiv both being assassinated in office, and Rajiv’s wife Sonia currently leading the Congress Party, often eclipsing outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi, never seemed particularly interested in becoming prime minister and was a disastrously bad campaigner who will shoulder a lot of the blame for the Congress Party’s historic defeat.

Modi, known from his tenure as chief minister of Gujarat as a skilled and ruthless political operator, reportedly despises the Gandhis and now that he’s in power, will likely take steps to curb their power.

It seems unlikely that Rahul will be the one to lead the Gandhis back from the wilderness, and some party loyalists are now demanding that his sister Priyanka take a more prominent role. Though she seems to have a bit more charisma than her brother, she has so far stuck to campaigning for the family in their home districts in Uttar Pradesh and has denied wider ambitions.

Plus, Congress and the BJP are hardly the only games in town. The upstart party Aam Admi , which has its origins in the anti-corruption protests on 2011, may have only picked up four seats, but seems to have had a significant impact on the election, providing an alternative for voters who were wary of Modi but fed up with Congress.

In the long and often tragic history of one of the world’s most prominent political families, today is a low point.  



The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Right of Free Speech
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 4:14 PM Planet Money Uncovers One Surprising Reason the Internet Is Sexist
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.