On Thursday when Indian PM Narendra Modi won a landslide victory in the Indian elections, Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and leader of India’s Congress party, emerged at the other end, battered and mauled.
He is the primary heir to the ultimate political dynasty. His great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first and longest-serving prime minister of India. His grandmother, Indira Gandhi, was the first female prime minister of the country, and his father was India’s youngest prime minister.
If the 2014 election was Congress’ worst political showing ever, Thursday’s poll delivered a double blow to Mr Gandhi. Congress won just over 50 seats against the 300 plus that Mr Modi’s BJP got; and if that was not bad enough, he lost his own seat in the family bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
He will still sit in the parliament though because this time he contested from a second seat – Wayanad in Kerala – which he won.
However, Amethi was a prestige battle. It was the seat from where both his parents – Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi – had contested and won and he himself had held it for the past 15 years. Even an emotional letter delivered to every house in Amethi – addressed to “Mera Amethi Parivar” – was not enough to spare him a ballot box humiliation at the hands of the BJP’s Smriti Irani, a high profile actress-turned-politician.
It sits in the heart of Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state – which is considered the ground zero of politics. It’s generally believed that whoever wins the state rules the country.
Eight of 14 Indian prime ministers – including Mr Gandhi’s great grandfather, grandmother and father – were from the state, which elects the largest number of MPs – 80 out of a 545-member lower house. Even Narendra Modi, who is originally from Gujarat, chose Uttar Pradesh to make his debut as an MP in 2014 when he contested from the ancient city of Varanasi.
Not many were expecting an outright win for the Congress, but they were definitely expected to do better than 2014. That’s why Thursday’s results have stunned many inside and outside the party. Congress may limp on in parliament, but the question many people are asking is if this means the Gandhi era is over – or whether it should be ended to revive the party’s fortunes.