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Voters deal heavy blow to India's next Gandhi

Manish Swarup / AP

Samajwadi Party supporters, faces smeared with colored powder, celebrate election success by burning firecrackers at their party office in New Delhi, India, on March 6, 2012.

Reuters reports from New Delhi — India's Rahul Gandhi failed spectacularly to deliver a promised comeback for his Congress party in crucial state elections, casting fresh doubt on his capacity to become the next member of a storied dynasty to lead the country.

The Congress party flop in India's most politically vital state was also a blow to the already-tottering government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reducing his scope to re-launch reforms and reverse a slowdown in economic growth.

"It has been a disaster for the Congress, it's an even bigger disaster for Rahul Gandhi and the Gandhi family," political analyst Amulya Ganguli said as results came in from Uttar Pradesh and four smaller states that went to the polls.

With the count nearing its conclusion on Tuesday, the Congress party was trailing in fourth place in the big northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which with 200 million people would be the world's fifth-most populous country if independent.

Sajjad Hussain / AFP - Getty Images

Congress party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi (in white) comes out from his residence to address the media in New Delhi on March 6, 2012.

"I accept responsibility for the fact that we did not perform well. After all, I was the main campaigner ... the Congress party fought well, but the result is not good," the 41-year-old Gandhi said.

There was also mostly disappointing news for Congress from other states that went to the polls over the past month. It was heading for a loss in Punjab, Goa and possibly Uttarakhand too, but was set to win in the far-flung border state of Manipur. Read the full story.

Rajesh Kumar Singh / AP

Samajwadi Party supporters celebrate in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, on March 6, 2012. Their victory means former wrestler Mulayam Singh Yadav will become chief minister for a fourth term since 1989, ousting the flamboyant lower-caste leader Mayawati.