India's Ruling Party Wins Second Term In Power

After a month of voting, the governing Congress party has won decisively in India, defying expectations.

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In India, the general election lasted a month. Today, it's finally over. The result: a clear and convincing win for the governing Congress Party and its allies. The Congress Party did a lot better than expected. That's good for the party, of course. It's also a relief for the Obama administration, which has been depending on the one truly stable government in a very unstable region.

NPR's Philip Reeves has the story from New Delhi.

(Soundbite of drums and singing)

PHILIP REEVES: Congress supporters are on the streets of India's capitol, New Delhi, celebrating their biggest win in years. The party and its allies were expected to win the most seats, with only just. Many people thought they'd have to spend days cobbling together a fragile coalition. The latest results show they'll fall only a few seats short of an outright majority in India's parliament.

At 76, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is set for a second term at the helm of the world's most populace democracy. Party official Lofmah Kanday(ph) is delighted.

Mr. LOFMAH KANDAY (Official, Congress Party): People are having full faith in him because he has done a lot of things for people of India. Now, let's hope for the best, cross our fingers, and pray for the best.

(Soundbite of shouting)

REEVES: At an unusually rowdy press conference, Singh paid tribute to the 400 million or so Indians who voted. He said the public had given his alliance a massive mandate.

Mr. MANMOHAN SINGH (Prime Minister, India): The people of India have spoken and spoken with great clarity.

REEVES: Political analysts have given a lot personal credit for the win to Singh. India's economy has taken big hit from the global downturn, but Singh presided over several years of rapid growth. He's much admired as an economist and as architect of India's economic reforms.

Political analyst Harish Khare of the Hindu newspaper, says Singh is respected because he's remained aloof from politics. He says Singh could be described as a non-political prime minister.

Mr. HARISH KHARE (Journalist, Hindu Newspaper): Non-political in the sense of a person whose political personality was not formed and defined and consecrated in the ugliness of electoral politics. So, to that extent, his impulses are by and large wholesome, decent, honorable.

Mr. RAHUL GANDHI (Member, Congress Party): I'll do my part. We'll do whatever we can.

REEVES: This is another man who many think did a lot to win voters. Rahul Gandhi is from the dynasty behind India's Congress Party, the descendants of Nehru, India's first prime minister and his daughter, Indira Gandhi. Analysts say Rahul, who's 38, and his sister, Priyanka, mobilized young voters who form the bulk of India's electorate. Both are shaping up as future leaders of India.

It will take a while for people to figure out why this election turned out this way, but there's consensus among analysts on some things, the result: a serious blow for India's biggest opposition party, the Hindu nationalists, BJP. The controversial career of the BJP's 82-year-old leader, L. K. Advani, may now be at an end. It's bad news for India's communists who lost a lot of ground in their strongholds, the states of West Bengal and Keralam. It's bad news, too, for various regional party potentates who'd been hoping to hold the balance in New Delhi.

Corporate India and foreign investors will broadly be happy. They don't like political uncertainty. The United States will be happy, too. It's worried about growing instability in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A weak coalition government in India would have made the region even more dangerous.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Delhi.

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