Congress wins big in India

In what was called a spectacular win, the Indian National Congress and its allies stormed back to power in parliament May 16. Pundits had predicted a much closer election than actually emerged as the country’s voters decisively indicated their preference for a 'stable government' in New Delhi.

Manmohan Singh, who is set to be prime minister again, said: “The people of India have spoken, and spoken with great clarity.” Singh will be the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to be voted back after a five-year term.

At the end of the day the Congress and its working allies in the United Progressive Alliance were within shouting distance of a majority. The allies are the Nationalist Congress Party, the All India Trinamool Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the National Conference and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.

The Congress on its own was set to cross the 200-seat mark, which seemed to be beyond the wildest expectations of many of its leaders.

As soon as the extent of the Congress success became known, there was a clamour that 38-year-old Rahul Gandhi deserved to be prime minister. The son of Sonia and former PM Rajiv Gandhi and great-grandson of Nehru, campaigned tirelessly for the Congress-led alliance, reports said, criss-crossing the country speaking at four rallies a day.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was quick to dispel any doubts about Singh being the choice as the next prime minister.

The principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, that led the National Democratic Alliance, came a distant second.

The Left-led Third Front saw its fortunes vastly diminished, including in its traditional strongholds in Kerala and West Bengal.

Describing the election results as a “major setback” to the Left parties, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said on May 16 that it would continue cooperation with the non-Congress, non-BJP secular parties with which it had been working.

“The CPI(M) and the Left parties have suffered a major setback in these elections. This necessitates a serious examination of the reasons for the party’s poor performance,” general secretary Prakash Karat said in New Delhi.

To take stock of the results, the Polit Bureau will meet May 18, the day a Third Front partner, Revolutionary Socialist Party, begins its meeting of the Central Secretariat.

Communist Party of India National Secretary D. Raja said, “We respect the people’s verdict, we had asked for mandate for a non-Congress, non-BJP government. We will now sit in the opposition.” CPI is another member of the Third Front.

Raja said the CPI would learn lessons for the future and see how the party could build its base. As for the results, he said there were several objective and subjective factors and in some cases the factors were state-specific.

CPI(M) leaders preferred not to offer any comment on what could be the factors that led to the Left in general, and their party in particular, losing many seats in West Bengal.

The CPI, the CPI(M), the RSP and the All-India Forward Bloc met May 17 and issued a short statement, 'The Left parties will work as a responsible opposition in parliament. The Left parties will continue our cooperation with the non-Congress, non-BJP allies. In the light of the Lok Sabha election results, it was decided that each party individually would review the reverses suffered in the elections. Following this, the Left parties will come to a collective assessment on how to overcome the shortcomings and move ahead.'

This report was compiled by Teresa Albano based on articles from The Hindu.