India's Congress party leading in provincial polls

India's Congress party leading in provincial pollsNew Delhi - India's ruling Congress Party was leading Monday in three of the five state elections that are seen as a political barometer for the country's upcoming general elections against the backdrop of terrorist attacks and the economic slowdown.

Early results from the Election Commission showed the Congress Party on the verge of ousting the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the north-western state of Rajasthan, while it looked set to retain power in national capital New Delhi for a third five-year term.

The party was also on its way to a win in the remote north-eastern state of Mizoram, beating the Mizo National Front, a former insurgent group that has ruled the state since

Meanwhile, the Congress's key rival, the BJP, was on the winning track in the central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which it has ruled since 2003.

The trends emerged ahead of India's general elections which the Election Commission said would be held between April and May.

Voting in Indian-administered Kashmir is still ongoing and the results for the state will be released later in December.

Central issues in the provincial polls were rising prices and the country's internal security situation following a wave of terrorist attacks including the Mumbai siege that has been blamed on Muslim militants.

More than 310 people died in the bombings and attacks across major Indian cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Jaipur since May.

The BJP has blamed the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance's soft stance on dealing with terrorism for the rising attacks by militants.

However, Congress managers appeared to be satisfied with the results saying the trends did not show people voting against the party on the issue of terrorism.

They said the Congress had come to power in New Delhi and Rajasthan where polling took place in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks between November 26 and 28.

But political analysts said neither the Congress nor the BJP had reason to rejoice.

"The Congress is certainly doing better than expected but not as well as they should have done to win a national election," analyst GVL Narasimha Rao told the IANS news agency.

"The BJP is doing worse than expected and does not look like it is in the lead to come to power nationally. It is a mixed result overall," he added. (dpa)