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
Even before the final results were in, a smiling
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, thanked people for a "massive mandate."
"It 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.
The 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 unreliable partners.
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
The president of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, who is
credited with reviving the party's fortunes, said people have made "the right
"People have 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.
Good 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.