- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

LUCKNOW, INDIA (AP) - Thousands of supporters showered Sonia Gandhi with rose petals Monday as she registered to run for re-election to India’s parliament.

Chief of the ruling Congress party and standard-bearer of India’s powerful Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Gandhi stepped aside in 2004 to let Manmohan Singh become prime minister. She is not seeking that post.

She led Congress back to power that year, but many raised concerns over the fact that she was born in Italy.

The 62-year-old widow of slain Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi waved to supporters who rained petals down on her motorcade as she drove to the magistrate’s office in her district, Rae Bareli, on Monday to file papers to run for her third term in Parliament.

She was accompanied by her son Rahul Gandhi, who is contesting from the neighboring district of Amethi and many think will one day be prime minister.

But if the party is voted back into power in national elections that begin later this month, Congress leaders say Singh will serve a second term.

The Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress party have dominated India’s political history since it gained independence from Britain in 1947.

But this year, Congress’ prospects are uncertain. The party has presided over several years of rapid economic growth, but the global economic slowdown has dimmed its economic record.

However, the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is also in disarray with an aging and fragmented leadership that has had trouble connecting with the electorate.

Many analysts say this election will usher in the rise of several regional parties that are focused on local issues or on particular castes in the country’s complex Hindu social system.

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