India's opposition Congress Party has suffered a massive setback in Monday's four state assembly elections, losing control to India's ruling Hindu nationalists in three of the states.
Official results, announced by the Election Commission late Thursday, show the the Bharatiya Janata Party or the BJP of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and its allies easily won in the three important states -- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh.
The Congress Party, led by Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, won in the small New Delhi state that includes India's capital.
Reports from New Delhi say the extent of the victories in the three Hindu heartland states surprised even the B-J-P. And the leaders of the defeated Congress Party that dominated politics in India for decades has ordered an inquiry into what went wrong.
The B-J-P's strong showing is likely to strengthen Mr. Vajpayee's diplomatic hand as he continues his efforts to improve relations with New Delhi's long-standing nuclear rival, Pakistan.
Some 52 million voters cast ballot in Monday elections, seen as a barometer of next year's parliamentary elections scheduled for October.