Indian election result seen as a decisive victory over communalism

By staff writers
May 18, 2009

The overwhelming victory of the Congress Party and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the Indian elections is being seen as a decisive victory over communalism and narrow religious nationalism and sectarianism.

The Congress Party strongly upholds secularism - which may be defined as a plural and open social and governance system, rather than an anti-religious one.

When the Election Commission started counting today, the UPA was well in the lead with 259 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha (parliament) and had pushed out its closest rival, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Final counting is still in progress.

The present Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, aged 77, who recently underwent a heart bypass surgery, is expected to retain his post for a second term and to lead the nation of over one billion people with a more stable government.

He is seen as an honourable and incorruptible politician in a system that has been subject to considerable manipulation in recent years.

Celebrations broke out in the Indian capital yesterday, with thousands of people thronging the streets, chanting and singing.

The general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), Bishop D K Sahu, told the Christian Today news website that he was "elated" by the outcome of the elections, after people voted out non-secular parties.

He expressed considerable relief that those responsible for the Kandhamal violence in Orissa in August 2008 and for other atrocities against Christian minorities, were not being given electoral sanction.

"They (Congress) should lead. Our prayers have been answered," he declared. “Christians wanted a secular government and it is a very positive sign that Congress won the elections. But the question remains: Will the government deliver results?"

Bishop Sahu said he hopes that the new government will work hard to deliver on good governance, effective administration, social justice and the enhanced security of minorities.

The east Indian state of Orissa, which has been badly damaged by communal and sectarian violence against Christians over the past 18 months, has voted decisively against the communal parties.

"The BJP has been completely wiped out of Orissa [electorally]," the bishop noted. He added that "Christians in Kandhamal are jubilant and there is [now] a sign of hope for them."

"The people have expressed faith in Congress. The win is due to the visionary leadership of Sonia Gandhi and the hard work of Rahul Gandhi. People have voted for secular forces and are against communal forces. The opposition parties should support the government on any positive issues," President Manmohan declared.

The UPA was meeting on Sunday 17 May to map out its future political strategy.

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