Why India's ruling party triumphed
Despite economic downturn, voters gave the Congress Party a surprisingly strong mandate.
The political coalition led by India's Congress Party is set to return to power after a stunning victory Saturday after monthlong parliamentary elections.Skip to next paragraph
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The results – in which the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won 262 of 543 seats – flew in the face of most experts' predictions of a hung parliament that would result in an unstable government.
Manmohan Singh, an economist praised for his clean reputation, is expected to be sworn in for his second term as prime minister, only the second in India's history to win two consecutive full terms in office.
The election results, analysts say, pave the way for more effective governance at a time when India's economy is slowing and the country is confronted by a perilous security situation in neighboring countries.
"The election has led to a stable government that will not have to succumb endlessly to the irritations of coalition politics and the threat of a mid-term breakdown," says Swapan Dasgupta, a New Delhi-based political analyst.
Winning votes despite downturn
The emphatic victory of the UPA is remarkable, says leading economist Swaminathan Aiyar, given that previous elections reflect that Indian voters "usually throw out 80 percent of all incumbent governments, especially in bad economic times."
The global recession has hit India hard. India's GDP growth has slipped from a high of 9 percent in 2007 to 7 percent last year. Industrial production has slumped into negative growth. Exports fell for the seventh consecutive month in April, down 33 percent from the year before.
Mr. Aiyar attributes the Congress Party's success to the rising "prosperity in rural areas, which [make up] 70 percent of the population."
Agriculture, the economic mainstay, has grown at an average rate of 4.5 percent, the fastest ever.
"People have voted for good governance," says Arundhati Dhuru, a Lucknow-based adviser to the Right to Food Campaign.
She points out that the UPA won a big chunk of rural votes because it implemented the landmark National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), an ambitious antipoverty project that took employment opportunities to the rural hinterland. Launched in 2005, the program guarantees one member from every rural Indian family at least 100 days of employment.
NREGA has been plagued by corruption with repeated instances of funds being pilfered by implementation officers.
"This is a massive, very technical project implemented across hundreds of districts," Ms. Dhuru says. "It will take at least a decade to streamline its implementation. But it is a good start."
Ms. Dhuru points out that there is anecdotal evidence of the slowing pace of rural-to-urban migration in some districts because of NREGA. [Editor’s note: The original version misidentified Ms. Dhuru.]
More freedom to pursue reform