India's ruling coalition led by the Congress party has won a decisive
victory in national elections, setting up a second term for Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh.
During a news conference Saturday, Mr. Singh called for a strong,
stable and secular government and thanked the Indian people for a
"massive mandate." Congress party president Sonia Gandhi added the
people had made "the right choice."
The main opposition bloc, led by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, conceded defeat. A senior BJP official (Arun Jaitley) told reporters his party would "accept this verdict of the people."
Preliminary results show the Congress-led alliance winning as many as
260 of 543 parliamentary seats, compared to around 160 seats for BJP.
It is a bigger win than predicted for Congress and its allies.
But the victory still leaves the Congress alliance short of the 272 seats needed for it to
govern alone. But analysts say the ruling party's sizable win means India will have a
stable coalition government, and not an unwieldy and weak coalition
that many had expected.
The Congress Party has 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.
A group of communist and regional parties did poorly in the election.
The first separatist leader to contest the polls in Indian-controlled
Kashmir also lost the election. Sajad Lone, who opposes Indian rule in
the disputed Himalayan state, defied a long-standing separatist policy
of boycotting elections.
Final results are expected later on Saturday. Parliament must be formed by June 2.
Some 714 million people were eligible to vote in the five-stage election that ended on May 13.
U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement Saturday congratulating
India on its "historic" national elections that have "strengthened"
European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso echoed the sentiment in a
statement congratulating the Congress party on its "landslide victory."
We have reports from our Kolkata and Dhaka stringers.