In India, the ruling Congress-led coalition has secured a decisive
victory in general elections, paving the way for a stable coalition
government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. With most votes
counted, the Congress party led alliance had led in 260 seats, while
the bloc led by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party trailed with
about 160 seats.
The news that the Congress Party led coalition was racing to victory
came within hours after vote counting began Saturday, surprising a
country which had been bracing for a fractured verdict.
Even before the final results were in, a smiling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, thanked people for a "massive mandate."
will be our effort to rise to the expectations of our people, to give
them a government which is a caring government, which represents the
best instincts of Indian polity, which works for sustained and
equitable development, which protects the secular values," he said.
Congress Party will head a coalition government. The alliance it heads
is slightly short of a clear majority in the 543-seat parliament, but
it can easily pick up support from small parties and independent
lawmakers to bridge the gap.
This has set at rest fears that the
country will have a weak, unstable coalition, dependent on a host of
In fact the Congress Party has emerged
hugely strengthened, winning more seats than the most optimistic
projections. It has picked up about 190 seats on its own - it's best
performance in nearly two decades. The Congress Party dominated Indian
politics since the country's independence, but saw is share of votes
slip in recent elections.
The president of the Congress Party,
Sonia Gandhi, who is credited with reviving the party's fortunes, said
people have made "the right choice."
appreciated the fact that we have worked hard, that we do think of
them, that we work for them with sincerity and dedication," she said.
Congress party supporters celebrated through the country, setting off firecrackers and dancing in the streets.
Congress Party attributed its showing in the polls to the work it has
done for the rural poor, who make up the bulk of India's voters.
news for the Congress Party was bad news for its main rival, the
opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which saw its share of seats slip
compared to 2004. Few had expected the BJP to win, but the party had
hoped to put up a good fight.
"It is a disappointment, but
like all good matches, one loses, one wins, we have lost, but with the
hope we will come back again strongly," said Siddharth Nath, spokesman
for the party.
The elections also dealt a blow to leftist,
regional parties and caste-based parties, which fared poorly, ending
their hopes of playing a dominant role at the national level.
India's new parliament must be seated by June 2.