India's ruling Congress-led coalition was re-elected today for a second term with a stronger mandate, as voters nationwide gave an unexpectedly clear endorsement of prime minister Manmohan Singh's left-of-centre administration, setting the stage for an era of greater political stability.
The Congress party delivered its best performance for decades, and while it will still need the support of regional parties outside its United Progressive Alliance (UPA), it was expected to form a considerably more powerful government that it did in 2004, and one more able to push through an ambitious reforming programme.
Sonia Gandhi stood with Manmohan Singh outside her home in central Delhi to thank the electorate. "Eventually, the people of India know what is good for them," she said. "They always make the right choice."
Singh added: "I express my deep sense of gratitude to the people for the massive mandate they have given."
Once again proving Indian opinion polls are to be treated with great scepticism, Congress defied exit polls and analysts' predictions, which for days had predicted a much closer result, anticipating that regional parties would play a central role.
Instead, the results showed the reverse, with a clear resurgence
of the Congress party as a national force. With more than 70% of the vote counted, the Congress-led UPA was set to take more than 258 seats, and the opposition alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata party forecast to take 162. Politicians such as the Dalit leader, Mayawati, chief minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, had hoped to play an influential role in the formation of new government, but found themselves unexpectedly irrelevant in the face of the Congress party's strong showing.
As the results came out, Congress politicians described the surge in nationwide support as a vote for the party's pro-poor measures. Although the party has been criticised for the patchy implementation of its pro-rural poor initiatives, there is a recognition that the scale and ambition of programmes such as the national rural employment guarantee scheme (which promised 100 days of work at minimum wage salary for everyone) have begun to make inroads into the extreme poverty which remains in much of India's rural heartland.
MJ Akbar, magazine editor and political commentator, said he thought the vote for Congress was also a vote for clean politics. Singh, he said, has a strong reputation as an uncorrupt politician, in a political arena tarnished by serious corruption scandals." People don't want corrupt leadership. They want the leaders to look decent and behave decently," he added
(Source Guardian.co.uk-Edited version)
What do you think...Will congress deliver how public want them to?
Or will it be the same old stuff all over again...just talks & no work?