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India gives Congress & UPA a clear mandate

WINNING COMBINATION: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, along with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, addresses a press conference at her residence in New Delhi, after the party’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections on Saturday. Asked whether her son, Rahul, would join the Cabinet, Ms. Gandhi said it was for the Prime Minister to decide.

WINNING COMBINATION: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, along with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, addresses a press conference at her residence in New Delhi, after the party’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections on Saturday. Asked whether her son, Rahul, would join the Cabinet, Ms. Gandhi said it was for the Prime Minister to decide.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

Harish Khare

Sonia says Manmohan will be Prime Minister; L.K. Advani offers to quit as leader

New Delhi: The Indian National Congress and its allies stormed back to power in the Lok Sabha on Saturday 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.”

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, a happy denouement that seemed to be beyond the wildest expectations of many of its leaders. It is for the first time since 1991 that it has tasted this kind of success nationally. Dr. Singh will be the first Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to be voted back after a five-year term.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was quick to dispel any doubts about Dr. Manmohan Singh being the choice as the next Prime Minister. As soon as the extent of the Congress success became known, there was a clamour that Rahul Gandhi deserved to be Prime Minister. Before the trend caught on, it was firmly and unequivocably made clear that Dr. Singh remained the prime ministerial mascot.

BJP graceful

The principal Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, that led the National Democratic Alliance, came a distant second. But in its moment of adversity it was graceful in conceding defeat and acknowledging that the UPA had a renewed mandate to govern. L.K. Advani, projected by the BJP as the “prime minister in waiting,” was quick to offer to step down as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

The Left-led Third Front saw its fortunes vastly diminished, including in its traditional strongholds in Kerala and West Bengal. Of the constituents of the Fourth Front, only the Samajwadi Party managed to notch up an honourable tally. Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Jan Shakti Party suffered embarrassing defeats.

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, which had hoped to play kingmaker in the new government formation, was stopped in its tracks as both the Congress and the BJP did surprisingly well in Uttar Pradesh.

The clear mandate brought a sense of relief and reassurance in official and political circles, which were bracing for a fractured-verdict situation. Various “fronts” had even suggested to the Congress that the prime ministerial post was a subject of negotiation.

The clean verdict spared the Congress, as well as others, the agony of a spell of horse-trading and bargaining for portfolios.

According to authoritative sources, the Congress is not too keen to invite into the Cabinet those partners who had parted company with it on the eve of elections — the SP, the RJD and the LJP.

Assembly outcomes



Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim, which simultaneously had Assembly elections, also saw clear mandates, and these outcomes also spelt governmental stability.

Strong and performing regional leaders helped their respective parties to post decisive victories: Naveen Patnaik in Orissa, Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, Narendra Modi in Gujarat, Y.S. Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, Shivraj Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh, Nitish Kumar in Bihar and B.S. Hooda in Haryana.

The performance of the Congress in Andhra Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections proved a game-changer. The party recovered lost ground in Tamil Nadu. It surprised itself with a remarkably robust tally in Rajasthan. And, along with Mamata Banerjee it walked away with the lion’s share of seats in West Bengal.

Dr. Manmohan Singh is expected to submit the resignation of his Council of Ministers on Sunday. The Congress Working Committee is also scheduled to meet on Sunday. A meeting of the Congress’ working allies is scheduled for the same day. On Monday the Congress Parliamentary Party will meet to re-elect its leader.

The 15th Lok Sabha will be dominated by a clutch of new but senior parliamentarians: Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh, all from the BJP. A.R. Antulay, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Renuka Choudhary were among the senior Congress Cabinet Ministers to lose. Home Minister P. Chidambaram barely managed to escape defeat, making it only in a recount.



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The lead story "India gives Congress amp; UPA a clear mandate" (May 17, 2009,page 1) said that Manmohan Singh will be the first Prime Minister sinceJawaharlal Nehru to be voted back after a five-year term, while a sentencein the first paragraph of "India chooses Congress" (Editorial, May 17,2009) said that Dr. Singh could be the first Prime Minister since IndiraGandhi to have two full terms. Indira Gandhi had three terms (1966-67,1967-71, 1971-77). Elections were called some 11 months early by Mrs Gandhiin 1971. But since she had not lost her majority, it should be considered afull-term. However, if one is referring to two (full) five-year terms, thecomparison with Jawaharlal Nehru is right.

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