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India's Congress Party Starts Work on Forming a New Government  

In India, the ruling Congress Party got down to the job of choosing partners and forming a new government, a day after it beat forecasts to win a better-than-expected victory in general elections. The Congress Party-led alliance has won 261 seats in the 543 member parliament, while its main rival, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party trails with 159 seats. The remaining seats have been won by an array of smaller parties.

Top leaders of the Congress Party met in New Delhi Sunday to identify small groups and lawmakers who will help the party get a parliamentary majority.

The Congress party-led alliance won what is being hailed as a "spectacular victory" in a country where no party has come close to a parliamentary majority in nearly two decades.

The Congress-led alliance is less than a dozen seats short of an outright majority in parliament.

Congress Party spokesman, Rajiv Shukla says the party can easily pick up the support it needs to craft a workable coalition.

"Well, we are very close to the magic figure of 272, people have given us a clear mandate, lot many small groups and independents they are available, more than willing to support the government," said Shukla.

Political analysts say although the Congress Party will continue to head a coalition government, its strong showing will give it ample room to implement policies without being hamstrung by regional and leftist parties, as happened during its last term in office.

Top Congress Party leaders are also discussing the formation of the Cabinet, which is expected to see the induction of some younger leaders.

There is some belief that will include Rahul Gandhi, son of Congress Party President, Sonia Gandhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said he would like him to join the government.

Rahul Gandhi is being toasted as the man who led the party's resurgence, particularly in the key state of Uttar Pradesh, where the party had been decimated in recent decades.

Gandhi's strategy has been to energize younger leaders and voters in a country where most politicians are old, but two thirds of the population is under 35 years old.

Gandhi says reviving the party remains his main goal.

"My job is to change the politics of this country, using youngsters," said Gandhi. "My job is to try and empower youngsters in this country."

Rahul Gandhi is the heir apparent of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, which has been at the helm of the Congress Party for decades. He is already being projected as a future prime minister.

Political analysts have called the decisive victory of the Congress Party a vote for stability in a country tired of the enormous influence wielded by regional, leftist and caste based parties in the federal government. Many of these parties - particularly leftist parties fared poorly in the elections.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is also discussing the reasons which led to its poor performance.