NDA makes way for possible Sonia led Government | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

NDA makes way for possible Sonia led Government

PTI | ByBeth Duff Brown (Associated Press), New Delhi
May 13, 2004 06:45 PM IST

In a dramatic turn of events the ruling NDA has conceded defeat thus making way for Sonia Gandhi to become India's first foreign born leader.

The ruling Hindu nationalist party conceded defeat on Thursday, opening the way for Sonia Gandhi to become India's first foreign-born leader and restore her family's dynasty to power in a dramatic election upset in the world's largest democracy.

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Results indicated that millions of rural people have abandoned Prime Minister  Vajpayee, believing they had been left out of his economic boom and rejecting his party in favor of the secularism of Gandhi's Congress party.

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Vajpayee, is expected to resign later on Thursday, had campaigned on the slogan "India Shining," which focused on the country's 8 percent growth rate, increased development and a surge in high tech industries. But his decision to call the election six months early was a devastating miscalculation.

After more than eight hours of vote-counting for 539 of Parliament's 543 elected seats, official results showed Congress and its allies were leading Vajpayee's 11-member National Democratic Alliance 145 to 119 seats.

Communist and other leftist parties have said they would back Congress, and they had already gained 17 seats. "We have not got the mandate of the people," said Venkaiah Naidu, president of BJP. Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha lost his seat, while Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani retained his.

The opposition Congress party and its allies had earlier claimed victory. Italian-born and now an Indian citizen, Sonia Gandhi, 57, could become the fourth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to lead India if her party and allies choose her as their next prime minister.

Gandhi now faces the same challenges as she did in 1999, when she failed to take over the government due to disagreement over whether she should become the prime minister. Among her potential allies on the left are senior politicians with much more experience; without their support she won't have a majority in Parliament, according to the incomplete tally.

Gandhi, widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated by a suicide bomber in 1991. Her mother-in-law, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was shot by her body guards in 1984. Indira's father, Jawaharlal Nehru, led India from independence from Britain in 1947 until his 1964 death.

Adding to the sweetness of her victory, Sonia's 34-year-old son, Rahul, was elected to Parliament from Amethi. Before the five-phased elections, which began on April 20, Vajpayee and his NDA had been expected to win enough seats to form a government and rule the country for another five years.

Vajpayee also campaigned on his diplomacy, which raised hopes of a lasting peace with nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Pakistan on Thursday said it hoped the peace process would continue regardless of who forms the government.

Congress focused on the country's 300 million people who still live on less than a dollar a day. It hammered away at the lack of even basic infrastructure, electricity and potable water for the rural poor.

"The BJP raised the slogan of development, but the people found there was no real development on the ground," said Kuldip Nayar, a political columnist and a member of the upper house of Parliament.

"This is a verdict against globalization. Now the next government will have to think how to employ more hands, than machine." The voters also appeared to have listened to Gandhi's push for a secular India.

Outside Sonia Gandhi's residence, supporters celebrated with drums and firecrackers.

"They said she is a foreigner, but the people have given them a reply," said Rati Lal Kala carrying a Congress flag and wearing a scarf in Congress' saffron, white and green colors.

Although Congress appears to be in the box seat, Gandhi and her allies must now finalize the shape of the government they hope to form before the new parliament meets as early as Monday. In the unofficial early tallies, leftist parties, which have promised to support a Congress-led government, also appeared to be doing well and they could give the opposition the edge it would need to take power.

More than 380 million voters participated in five phases of balloting that began April 20. Forty-eight people died in election violence, less than half the deaths in the last elections in 1999.

Unveiling 'Elections 2024: The Big Picture', a fresh segment in HT's talk show 'The Interview with Kumkum Chadha', where leaders across the political spectrum discuss the upcoming general elections. Watch Now!

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