May 20, 2004
CONGRESS WINS 'ONE OF THE GREATEST ELECTION UPSETS'
** The BJP didn't address
the "basic demands" of the "poor and marginal
** India rejected the BJP's
"divisiveness and xenophobia" and backed a "more secular
** India's Congress must
restrain the "Marxist junkies" in its new coalition.
** Papers predict continued
thaw with Pakistan but "greater distance from Washington."
'The rural poor turned' on the BJP and 'trampled' it-- Dailies overwhelmingly agreed that the BJP lost
because it ignored the "growing poverty of the rural masses" and
their distrust of "capitalism and unbridled open markets." India's nationalist Hindustan Times
termed the vote "an expression of the impatience of the people who want to
better their condition now" and a rejection of the BJP's "own
self-serving myths" about its economic program's success. Canada's leading Globe and Mail cited
the "anger of millions of poor people" who voted for Congress because
they have "seen none of the benefits of the current boom that has
transformed the Indian economy into one of the world's
'A triumph of secular values' over the BJP's 'revivalist zeal'-- Outlets said the "vote against nationalism
and sectarianism" proved the BJP's Hindutva ideology "is on the
wane"; India's pro-reform Economic Times stated a majority of
voters "supports secular politics" and opposes "communal
carnage." Canadian and Spanish
analysts predicted Congress would "distance India from Vajpayee's
problematic Hindu nationalism" and "recover India's secular
character." Muslim writers hailed
the confirmation that India "transcends ephemeral distinctions of
creed," with Pakistan's center-left Dawn hoping the vote will
"encourage secular forces" in South Asia.
'Unruffle the ruffled feathers of the business community'-- Several papers noted that the "presence of
the Left in the power structure" of the new ruling coalition has sparked
fears that the new government will perform an "about-face
on...privatization and other economic reforms that gained pace under the
BJP." The UAE's expatriate-oriented
Khaleej Times blamed the "commies' much-trumpeted opposition to
reforms" for the post-election "unprecedented market
crash." After the stock slump, the
centrist Indian Express urged Congress to "restore sanity--among
its leftist partners as well as the equally sentimental bourses."
'Relations with America will be revised'-- Russian and Chinese papers saw "little
impact" on India's foreign policy, but others forecast that Congress's
"traditional anti-imperialistic reflex" might lead the new government
to "distance itself from America."
Pakistani dailies concluded that the "Indian electorate favors
peace with Pakistan" because the issue "did not emerge as a major
election issue"; the centrist News appreciated the
"encouraging words of continuing the peace and normalization process"
made by Congress leaders.
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media
Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a
representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign
editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
Government. This analysis was based on
56 reports from 19 countries over 14 -
19 May 2004. Editorial excerpts from
each country are listed from the most recent date.
“Historical Blunder Again"
Calcutta-based centrist Urdu-language Azad
Hind asserted (5/18): "The
decision that the left parties took against participation in a Sonia-led
government at the center is mainly based on an ideology related to regional
politics more than internal differences of opinion. But this sort of step does
not always prove to be fruitful. The best example is Chandrababu Naidu of
Andhra Pradesh who gave support to the Vajpayee government from outside for
five years, but what was the ultimate result? He was thrown out of power. The
left parties have a golden opportunity to spread their influence throughout the
country by joining the center. Although, the leftists said that they would join
the central government in the future, they should not unduly delay because
their participation is certain to prove fruitful for them as well as the
“The 'D' Word"
The centrist Asian Age declared (5/17): "Disinvestment has been made a dirty
word in the political lexicon of all right thinking people. Disinvestment per
se is not bad, but the way in which the outgoing BJP-led National Democratic
Alliance packaged it, was scandalous....
The intention here is not to malign the BJP-led NDA Now that it is down
and out; but to put the record straight, so that the correction is viewed in
the spirit in which it is being done. The
stock market is no doubt wary about the Left and former finance minister Dr.
Manmohan Singh has been going out of his way to unruffle the ruffled feathers
of the business community. But the truth
is, that disinvestment in its NDA format cannot be continued. This puts a
tremendous responsibility on the Congress and the Left. It is one thing to say
that the public sector should not be divested, but it is even more important to
see that the public sector units are not made the milch cows of the administrative
ministry that they come under. Since the
successive Congress regimes, minister, members of Parliament and bureaucrats
have made the public sector their fiefdoms to be rifled at will.... The units should be professionally managed
and under no circumstances should they be made playthings of these three
groups. Additionally, there should be a
complete study of the profitable and non-profitable units and the returns on
investment to rebut the vicious propaganda that public sector units are
“The More Things Change"
Manoj Joshi wrote in the nationalist Hindustan Times
(5/17): "It will be tempting to see
Verdict 2004 for what it is not: a mandate for any one of the parties.... Notwithstanding claims of party ideologues
and fellow-travelers, the sum total of the verdict suggests that no one is
seeking a revolutionary change. The call is for a change in nuance rather than
substance, ironically brought out by the Left’s fulminations against
disinvestment.... In other words, in
large part, the new government will not deviate too much from the middle path
set by Vajpayee.... The one area where
there is likely to be little change will be foreign and security affairs. While
the Congress has been critical of the NDA’s over-cosy approach to the U.S., the
issue must now take a back seat as the electoral process unfolds in the U.S.... The new Congress team will have little
problem in picking up the threads of the relations with Pakistan and
China.... Perhaps the biggest challenge
that the new government will face in foreign and security policy is to go
through with the reforms of the security system initiated by the Group of
Ministers report of the NDA government....
But the first government of the party in this millennium and century
will operate in a completely altered global and domestic environment, their
best bet is to find new solutions for the problems rather than retreading old
Independent Guwahati-based Assamese-language Asomiya Khabor
declared (5/16): "Snubbing the
BJP's malicious campaign against the Nehru-Gandhi family, this election has
demonstrated that common people have already accepted the 'foreign
daughter-in-law'...in their hearts. Rejection of the BJP's 'feel good' factor
publicity resulted in a change of regime at the center.... Now, the Congress-led government has to be
careful in addressing fundamental problems of the people. The lesson this
election has taught to our political parties is that no government could stay
in power for long by ignoring basic demands of the poor people. The stability of the Congress-led government will
also depend, therefore, on its understanding this reality."
"What Have Our People Said?"
Anuradha M. Chenoy noted in the pro-economic-reforms Economic
Times (5/16): "The election
results have come as surprise to all....
To deconstruct the mandate, the largest chunk shows that it supports
secular politics. A government that sits
back and watches communal carnage as in Gujarat; allows state institutions
including the police and judiciary to be communally biased; parades the chief
minister that the highest court of the land indicts and calls the modern day
Nero as its election mascot, cannot make policy nationally. Not just the minorities but the people as a
whole will not tolerate this.... There
is thus no single story to this election.
But there is one clear thread. People of this country need a government
that recognizes difference that respect diversity; that does not impose one
religion of ideology; that is inclusive; gives them equity and ensures
rights. The only way to do this is to
ensure that democratic, liberal and constitutional institutions are
strengthened and revitalized. Or we will have yet more shock.”
“Tame The Bull, Rein In The Red"
Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta opined in the centrist Indian
Express (5/15): "The reason the
Sensex crashed 330 points is a simple one. The brokers...do not know the
politics, style or the language of the Left. The politicians of the Left, quite
similarly, do not know the markets....
It is time both learnt a little bit more about each other. This is a
globalizing India in a globalizing world, so the Left cannot hide from the
markets. Similarly, the presence of the Left in the power structure, the
message of impatience from the voters in this election, is a reality the
markets have to make provision for....
For decades, the comrades have seen wealth creation as an immoral
activity and money as the great satan....
Therefore, don’t expect these comrades to figure out how a mere
statement made in anger, irritation--and to be fair, in passing...can not merely
shave one lakh crore from your own nation’s market cap, it can also color the
market’s perception of your politics and sense of responsibility.... It is therefore the responsibility of the
Congress not only to disabuse them of these notions but to also keep them in
control, even if it takes too long to win them over to the cause of reform or
globalization.... As the dominant leader
of this coalition, it is for the Congress now, as it recovers from the shock and
awe of its unexpected victory, to restore sanity--among its leftist partners as
well as the equally sentimental bourses.”
“History Will Judge Vajpayee Favorably"
Right-of-center Marathi-language Mumbai-based Tarun Bharat
editorialized (5/15): "In his last
address to the nation, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee said history will fairly
evaluate his prime ministership....
While expressing surprise over the unexpected poll verdict in favor of
the Congress party, the New York Times has given its due credit to
Vajpayee. While taking note of the liberalizing economic policies carried out
by Vajpayee-led governments, the paper has observed that the poor voters of
India remain unimpressed by the `statistically impressive economic growth’
whose fruits did not seem to have reached them. The paper has further concluded
that the Italian-born Congress party leader, Sonia Gandhi, has benefited from
the uneasiness over the economic change....
The paper has said that Vajpayee can generally be proud of his six years
as the longest-serving head of the non-Congress Party government. He was a
moderating force within his party, and history is likely to judge his economic
policies and his diplomatic initiatives favorably.... Similarly, Britain’s Guardian has also
applauded Vajpayee for reviving the Indian economy from the malaises of
shortages and black marketeering.... It
has expressed doubts about the performance of the Congress Party, which has unexpectedly
come to power on a negative vote against the National Democratic Alliance
government headed by Vajpayee.... The
dependence of the Congress on the parties of the left will add to the confusion
over the nature of the economic reforms in India. The Guardian has judged Vajpayee’s
regime as democratic, as opposed to the dynastic rule perpetrated by the
"Interesting Times Ahead"
The Mumbai-based left-of-center Free Press Journal held
(5/14): "Only the brave and
foolhardy will guarantee longevity to a Sonia Gandhi-led government supported
from outside by the treacherous leftists, but the widow of Rajiv Gandhi by
occupying the highest executive office might have a thing or two to prove to
her former compatriots back in Italy and her adopted nation, where there are
many vocal critics disputing her right to prime ministership due to her foreign
origins.... But a more pertinent
question would be whether someone with little or no administrative experience
and virtually non-existent academic and intellectual experience wherewithal can
lead this county well given its chronic problems of economic and social
under-development. Interesting times are
ahead in the India polity. The Congress
is bound to falter in government, particularly when it is crucially dependent
for survival on the Marxist junkies whose right place is in the dustbin of
history and not on treasury benches of a nation seeking to become a developed
nation by 2020. If it plays its card
well, the BJP might re-discover its élan as a formidable opposition both inside
and outside parliament."
"Voters Have Spoken"
An editorial in the centrist Indian Express
read (5/14): "In Election 2004 that
faceless, voiceless entity called the voter has transmogrified into a veritable
demolition machine, which has just laid low some of the tallest figures on the
political spectrum.... The biggest
mistake the NDA made was to have actually believed its own self-serving
myths.... It perceived brisk cell phone
sales and cheap housing loans as symbolizing a nation on the move. It believed
that it could wish away the post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat--among the
worst in the nation's history--and move on....
What the election results have just indicated is that even if the NDA
was foolish enough to swallow its own myths, voters were not prepared to do
so.... The very fact that Sonia Gandhi's
foreign origins did not stir the air despite the best efforts of the BJP
indicates that Hindutva as an ideology is on the wane.... A quick assessment seems to indicate that
voters everywhere have become much more conscious of their rights as citizens
and of the power of their votes. People will increasingly deploy the strength
that democracy gives them to get better lives for themselves and a better
future for their children. Election 2004, then, was about rising popular
expectations and the ability--or inability--of leaders to address them."
"BJP Swept Away In Tidal Wave"
Mahesh Rangarajan observed in the centrist
Calcutta-based Telegraph (5/14):
"The real story of the election can be told in two words: Sonia
Gandhi.... Her speeches focused on the
big questions that bothered the common man and woman: jobs, agriculture and the
need for harmony. The late surge of the Congress was missed by the pollsters.
The results left not a shadow of doubt. It was a tidal wave that swept away all
in sight.... If anything, it was the
micro-management gurus of the ruling alliance who got it all wrong. The attacks
probably helped Sonia gain a sense of empathy from the voters.... The NDA dismissed her as a paper tiger. Once
it was too late, it tried damage control by wooing the most unlikely of
potential allies. But the voters had other ideas.... For Sonia, winning might have been the easy
part. Ruling a diverse coalition with competing demands is a new game for the
Congress. But the voters rung in the new and rung out the old. And they did it
as they often have in the world's largest democracy, decisively and
"The New Government"
The nationalist Hindustan Times contended (5/14): "After hearing the exit polls and
pundits for the past month or so, the people have spoken. And their voice is
clear--the BJP-led NDA government must go....
Despite a booming economy, good monsoons and the changed climate of
relations with Pakistan, voters remained unconvinced. It would be easy to
ascribe the NDA's defeat to the elector's negative answer to the apocryphal
question: are you better off now than you were five years ago? But the fact is
that the Congress bested the BJP in the coalition sweepstakes.... There will be a temptation within the Sangh
parivar to revert to the Hindutva line....
In some ways, the vote was not so much against Vajpayee's policies, but
an expression of the impatience of the people who want to better their
condition now. The elections' other
clear message is that the Congress party is not dead and if it can successfully
lead the country in the coming years, it could well return to its former
glory.... But the clearest message from
the voters is that Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin is not--and has not been--an
issue. Given the role the Congress president played in her party's remarkably
improved fortunes, there are no doubts now that the prime ministership of the
country is Ms Gandhi's for the asking....
Now she must shoulder even greater responsibility in setting up a workable
coalition that will provide good governance to this nation of 1 billion."
"The Question Is, 'What Should Be Done?'"
Assistant Editor Rongon Chakrabarty asked in independent
Calcutta-based Bengali-language Ananda Bazar Patrika (5/14): "People have chosen the Leftists out of
anger, frustration, and mistrust. The outcome of this election bears similarity
to a large extent to movements in the entire world against capitalism and
unbridled open markets as well as America's high-handedness. What would the
Leftists do with such a grand mandate? They have a very hard task before them.
It is not possible to conceive any state mechanism in isolation, unrelated to
the rest of the world.... America's role
as a terrorist has been increasing ever since the fall of the USSR. It has
become all the more desperate by failing
to contain Iraq. It may enter into any country on one pretext or the
other. In West Bengal we are seeing a somber kind of Marxism.... If the Leftists join the new federal
government how would they tackle the compulsions of the global market? How
would they protect labor rights by contesting with these multinationals? How
would they save farmers from falling victims to the trap of businessmen doling
out loans, seeds and pesticides? How would they tackle the intricacies and
ruthlessness of the WTO and other world bodies? People have voted them to
Parliament with so many aspirations in their heart."
"Exhilarating Victory Of Congress"
Calcutta-based nationalist Urdu-language Akhbar-E-Mashriq
concluded (5/14): "The number 13 is
generally considered to be very inauspicious and it has proved to be true in
case of the BJP. May 13 has brought only despondency for them, which they never
previously thought about.... We should
offer greetings to Sonia Gandhi, the President of the Congress Party for her
relentless struggle against the communal forces and achieving victory over
them. At the same time we are taking the privilege to caution her that Indian
politics is just like 'an ocean of fire' that she will have to face.... We are also hopeful that she will look after
the genuine causes of the minorities, especially the Muslims, who have
constantly been the victims of injustice on all stages since the partition of
PAKISTAN: "New Indian
An editorial in the centrist national
English-language News read (5/18):
"The propitious words that Mrs Sonia Gandhi uttered in respect of
the peace process between the two countries provided good copy but was too
little to hint at a possible breakthrough in the relations. It will be wrong to
go into raptures so soon.... The fact is
that just as we consider it a core issue, the Indians view it in similar
light. At no time has any Indian leader
hinted at settling the issue in a manner that will be satisfactory for
Pakistan.... However, one can expect
that American influence might induce the Indians to continue the peace process.
But even this is not certain as it not clear whether Delhi will continue the
considerable proximity that both Delhi and Washington had managed. Analysts
suggest that the Congress government might like to distance itself from
Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn
declared (5/16): "The Congress
victory is being depicted as a triumph of secular values over the revivalist
zeal of the BJP and particularly the latter's co-habitants like the RSS and the
Shiv Sena. Fundamentalism has not been
rooted out and may indeed become even more aggressive and spiteful in defeat.
But will the Congress win encourage secular forces in Pakistan and South Asia?
This can only remain a hope till we are able to achieve a truly democratic
The center-right national English-language Nation contended
(5/16): "The assessment of some
political circles at Islamabad that as the BJP in the past few days seemed to
be retreating towards a hard-line stand, the changeover should be a matter of
relief for Pakistan, is way off the mark....
If the 'settled' points, if any, would become 'open' again the situation
would constitute a setback for the Musharraf government."
“Election Results In India”
Second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt concluded
(5/15): "The defeat of Vajpayee is
a moment of reflection for Pakistani rulers, who had been expecting too much
from the BJP government.... The people
of Pakistan do not have any wishful thinking about the government of Sonia
Gandhi nor they had any about that of Vajpayee.... If like Vajpayee President Musharraf’s friend
Bush gets defeated in the November election, which is very much possible
despite Mr. Jamali’s prayers, then the dangers for Pakistan’s transit, semi
military, semi democratic system would increase manifolds."
"How Will A Change Of Govt. In India Affect Indo-Pak
Najam Sethi mused in the Lahore-based liberal English-language Daily
Times (5/14): "The pundits and
pollsters were all wrong. The people of
India weren’t as stupid as the designers of the 'Shining India' campaign believed. Sure, the shine rubbed off on a section of
the urban middle class but it certainly left the rest of India dry and
dusty.... General Musharraf has already
shown some impatience in wanting to move ahead with the composite dialogue
while focusing on the 'core' issue of Kashmir.
Now he will have to cool his heels a bit more. And if there is no meaningful headway with
the Congress government before the summer is out, especially on Kashmir, he
will come under pressure from his own side to open the Jihadi tap again. If
that happens, the whole process could unravel in decidedly unfriendly
"India's Stunning Poll Results"
Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn
argued (5/14): "As the champion of
the free market economy, the BJP came to be seen as being responsible for the
growing poverty of the rural masses. In
fact, the party's 'India Shining' slogan clearly backfired with the common
people...it appears that the government which takes over in New Delhi will
sustain the BJP's policy vis-a-vis Pakistan and Kashmir. Since this did not
emerge as a major election issue in the campaign, one can safely assume that
the Indian electorate favors peace with Pakistan. It can only be hoped that the
BJP in opposition will not suddenly turn hawkish on this issue."
The centrist national English-language News said
(5/14): "The future prime minister
of India has uttered the usual encouraging words of continuing the peace and
normalization process with Pakistan.
Probably given the heavy U.S. input that went into leading India and
Pakistan to the negotiating table, it can be expected the process will be
maintained by the new Indian management....
India’s policy towards Pakistan is a carefully crafted strategy, which
is based on extensive studies and calculations.
It is not like our India policy, which mainly depends on the thinking of
the presiding leader.... It was for this
reason that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had observed that had Ziaul Haq
been alive the Kashmir issue would have been settled. President Musharraf and
former Prime Minister Vajpayee had developed a sporting relationship and got on
well together. Pakistan’s leaders will
now have to contend with a Prime Minister who will follow the tough tradition
set by former prime ministers Indra Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi."
Elections Serve up Some Lessons”
The independent English-language New Age noted (5/17): "Indian voters have underscored the idea
that political power ought not to be taken for granted. In 1977, Indians
shocked Indira Gandhi into defeat and then, three years later traumatized her
successors by seeing her return to office. They gave Rajiv Gandhi a handsome
mandate in 1984, only to take it back from him in 1989. And they have done it
again this time. When investment-driven men like Chandrababu Naidu are driven
from office and suave ministers like Yashwant Sinha lose their constituencies,
it is a sign that democracy is in good, glowing health. Nothing - not privatization,
not disinvestments, not computers, not nuclear strength--matters to people who
know they have to walk miles to come by drinking water every day. What counts
is the future of a countryside that waits for rain and hopes for an infusion of
irrigation for the fields."
“India Is Truly Shining Now”
Editor Mahfuz Anam wrote in the influential, English-language Daily
Star (5/16): "India is
definitely shining because of the majesty of democracy. India is also shining because of the
performance of its election Commission, its bureaucracy, both central and
state, and its law enforcement agencies, including the army that worked under
the EC. Finally, India is shining
because of the smoothness with which power transfer is taking place. As a co-member of SAARC, as another country
practicing democracy, as a partner in the struggle against poverty, as a member
of the developing world, and as fellow south Asian country we feel proud at
what India has achieved as a democracy.
Following this election India can claim to be a highly matured
SRI LANKA: "Peace And
Booming Economies Fail Two Governments"
Independent English-language Island commented (5/14): "Peace and a booming economy did not
work for the BJP just as...it did not work for former Sri Lanka Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe.... Cutting off
agricultural subsidies, neglect of health, education, the high rate of
inflation.... In the coming weeks Indian
analysts will no doubt examine in depth where the BJP government
failed.... They will be calling for
socialism with a human face and/or capitalism with a human face, whatever they
mean.... Of much importance to Sri Lanka
will be the attitude of a Congress government towards the LTTE, which
assassinated the husband of Sonia Gandhi.
However, it has also to be borne in mind that New Delhi’s Sri Lanka
policies are swayed by Tamil Nadu compulsions.
Whatever the decisions of Sonia Gandhi may be, if she does head the next
Indian government, some animals in the jungles of the Wanni will now be feeling
quite uneasy, to say the least."
BRITAIN: "The Dynasty
The left-of-center Guardian declared (5/14): "The Hindu nationalist BJP were not just
voted out of power, they were drummed out of it.... This too was a vote against nationalism and
sectarianism. If Mrs. Gandhi uses this
mandate, it may herald a new era in Indian politics."
"Upset In India"
The conservative Times asserted (5/14): "It must rank as one of the greatest
election upsets of all time, matched perhaps only by the defeat of Churchill in
1945 and Truman's victory in 1948 in wrongfooting almost every political pundit.... She courted the villages, the poor and ethnic
and religious minorities. She focused
her campaign not on the booming south, the middle classes or the high-tech
centres but on the poor and populous north, especially Uttar Pradesh, a state
of 170 million. Numbers count in a
democracy as vas as India's.... What she
needs is a set of coherent policies to take India forward from the point it has
"India's Rural Voters Seek A Brighter Future"
The conservative Daily Telegraph opined (5/14): "To achieve a parliamentary majority,
Mrs. Gandhi will have to seek alliances with Left-wing parties. That reorientation will not reverse economic
deregulation initiated by a previous Congress government in 1991, but the pace
of privatisation is likely to slow and more emphasis will be put on providing
rural areas with the basic facilities of water, power and roads. Mrs. Gandhi's commitment to strong, secular
government is welcome."
Britta Peterson opined in business-oriented Financial Times
Deutschland of Hamburg (5/17):
"It would be no catastrophe if India's economic growth slows down
in the next few years. Unlike most
developing countries, India is a land of remarkable political stability and
little criminality. One of the reasons
is that the differences of living have always been less than on the American
continent. Most Indians don't want this
to change. They feel that social
stability, tolerance, and democracy depend on the poorest being able to benefit
from economic success. They believe that
it is worth to sacrifice some economic growth to this goal. If Sonia Gandhi achieves this she will get
her place in history, too."
Thomas Kielinger commented in right-of-center Die Welt of
Berlin (5/15): "You must be pretty
hard-nosed not to see the overwhelming importance of the event [the Indian
elections]. It is important because it
shows the strength of the Indian democracy--which seems to be the longest
lasting heritage of the British Empire.
The change of government should also awake politicians who believe
people can be reached by slogans praising technical and economic advance… India
has made a lot of progress over the recent years, but the 'other' India of 300
million poor people believed it was neglected.
This was the fertile ground for Sonia Gandhi and the Congress
party. Unlike the nationalistic Hindu
party BJP, Gandhi will support a more secular society and pave the way for
democracy further. Many hopes are with
"India, Brought Down
Jochen Buchsteiner commented in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (5/14): "The
election result will probably bring India down to earth. The next government will no longer talk
big. While the old government was
dreaming of a leading position in a multipolar world, the new one will take
care of the social instability.
However, we should not expect a substantial change of policy, even if
Sonia Gandhi forms a coalition with the communists. The left wing of the Congress party, which
used to appreciate the semi-socialist economy for decades, has become very
minor. Non-ideological politicians are
running the party today. In general,
they want to continue the path of the recent years. The market liberalization might slow down,
but the new government will not abandon it.
The new peace process with Pakistan is not controversial, but relations
with America will be revised. They
improved under Vajpayee and developed into a 'strategic partnership'. But the
Congress party has a traditional 'anti-imperialistic' reflex that might be
easily triggered by the Bush government. Neither do the Communists, who believe
in Marx and Lenin, favor Washington.
However, they are pragmatists where they are in government, like in West
Arne Perras held in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of
Munich (5/14): "The result reveals
a deeply-rooted problem that has to do particularly with the change of the
Indian economy. Globalization means a
lot of growth potential for India, but the poorest have not benefited from it
yet. While the higher and middle classes
is getting richer, millions of people live in poverty. And India still has a painful modernization
path to go. Globalization gurus are
calling upon India to keep privatizing, liberalizing and cutting subsidies, but
no one knows how to support millions of unemployed who have no
perspective. Vajpayee only reluctantly
liberalized the market, because he feared social unrest. The congress party, which must still grasp
its victory and form a stable coalition, will be even more unwilling to change
the economy further, because it promised social justice in the election
campaign, which helped win the election.
The Congress party has never really pushed for social justice in its
forty years of government before BJP come into power. Now it must take care of the poor if it does
not want to gamble away its credibility."
"New Foreign Policy?"
Willi Germund wrote in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung
(5/14): "It will be very
interesting to see what India's new foreign policy will be like. The Communists will demand keeping greater
distance from Washington. But India's
new government might also be more reasonable when it comes to nuclear armament,
while the Hindu nationalists did not spare any cost here. Anyway, Sonia Gandhi will be very careful to
make too many compromises, particularly in the relations with Pakistan, because
of her Italian origin."
ITALY: “Two Global
Aldo Rizzo observed in centrist, influential La Stampa
(5/14): “It was a great surprise in
India.... The Indian National Congress
party won, led by Sonia Gandhi.... The
economic growth of India, which is potentially one of Asia’s three giants, along
side China and Japan, is the result of the much-criticized globalization.... Gandhi’s problems include foreign policy
issues, which for India mostly means relations with Pakistan, an important and
unstable Muslim country that, like India, also has the nuclear weapon, and that
is also al-Qaeda’s object of desire. The thaw between New Delhi and
Islamabad...which was obtained by the preceding government, is of interest to
the entire world. Sonia said she would not modify the route. Best wishes to her
and to all of us.”
RUSSIA: "Pakistan Is
Vladimir Skosyrev said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(5/18): "In the early stages, no
insurmountable differences are expected inside the ruling coalition. But Congress will surely have to heed the
opinion of its allies on the left and adjust the market reform policy that was
pursued by the Vajpayee cabinet....
Neighboring Pakistan is closely watching, the local press wondering if
Sonia Gandhi is capable of carrying on the settlement process started by
Vajpayee. Coming from a Hindu
nationalist party, Vajpayee, a highly respected politician, used his influence
to rein in BJP hotheads, helping to promote détente."
"The Gandhi Clan Is Back"
Vladimir Shreter and Valentina Kulyabina noted in reformist Vremya
Novostey (5/14): "The change in
the Indian top leadership will have little impact on that country's foreign
policy, at least not on its political dialogue with Pakistan. The dialogue will surely continue, according
to Mrs. Gandhi. Information Minister
Rashid Ahmed in Pakistan said yesterday that Islamabad expects normalization to
continue following the arrival of a new government in India."
SPAIN: "Surprise In
Centrist La Vanguardia editorialized (5/14): "With the foreseeable influence that the
left-wing representatives will have on the political action of the new
government it is possible that privatizations will be delayed, but it is not
probable that the Congress Party will abandon the reforms and economic
opening-up that, after all, it favored more than a decade ago. Anyway, for the international community and
for the interest of maintaining peace, the most important is to continue going
forward in the incipient process of good neighborhood that the Prime Minister
Vajpayee and Pakistani president Musharraf started last year. Nobody should forget that both of them are
"The Importance Of Being Gandhi"
Indpendent El Mundo stated (5/14): "Since in India it is the population of
the rural areas and with least resources that go to the polls, it is not
surprising that a campaign based on euphoria has not gained many supporters.... The victory of the Congress Party will recover
India's secular character. How its
leader is going to succeed in making the country shine for all is a greater
ISRAEL: "India At A
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post observed
(5/17): "The rise of the subcontinent
as a hi-tech powerhouse, the emergence of a broad middle class, the energetic
deregulation, privatization, and de-monopolization that it has unleashed have
made India's one of the world's most promising economies.... The Indian vote is clearly not a demand for
less of all this. Rather, it is reminiscent of the restoration to power of
reformed socialists that has been common in post-Communist Europe. Like those cases, this one too is not about
fewer people approving of capitalism, but about more people demanding access to
its fruits.... [Also], under its
outgoing government India has turned its back on its predecessors' anti-Western
heritage and rhetoric and turned much of India's foreign policy around. Part of this outlook was the creation of a
strategic relationship with Israel, one whose rationale should be apparent to
any student of India's situation in its region.
Hopefully, Sonia Gandhi will prove more of a student of reality than of
UAE: "India Passes The
The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej
Times held (5/16): "Indian
democracy has passed its ultimate test....
A renewal of hope and resurrection of India’s identity as a nation that
transcends ephemeral distinctions of creed, colour, race and birth. That a white Italian woman, Catholic by
faith, has been chosen by a nation of one billion people to rule a Hindu
majority country is perhaps the greatest and most shining example of democracy
yet.... By throwing out the BJP with its
divisive political baggage, India’s faceless millions made it abundantly clear
that they have little patience for petty non-issues like foreign origin and the
quest for the origins of historical, obscure figures.... In the absence of a clear majority of its
own, the Congress would be heavily dependent on allies like the Left parties.
Although the Left has yet to decide about joining the government led by Sonia,
in all likelihood they will jump on the bandwagon having missed the bus last
time. The sensitive Sensex reacted sharply to the talk of the Left joining the
government. The commies’ much-trumpeted opposition to reforms is touted to be
the reason behind the unprecedented market crash. However, there is a
completely positive side to the Congress lacking required numbers. In the absence
of comfortable strength of its own, the new government would be much more
careful and try to ensure consensus on major issues.... She would do well to respect advice and help
from honest veterans like Manmohan Singh. The immediate task before the new government
will be...the nation’s economic agenda. The Vajpayee government was shown the
door by the people primarily because majority of the country did not ‘feel
good’ about anything.... The government
by Sonia will have to address the challenge on a war footing. Also, she has to
win back the communities like Muslims alienated under the outgoing
"Shocking Defeat For Ruling Party"
The English-language expatriate-oriented Gulf News remarked
(5/14): "A shock victory, an
unexpected rout.... India's ruling
Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, has been comprehensively swept away in the general
elections.... The question mark over why
his party was unable to translate his huge popularity into votes remains. Was it the Gandhi mystique, the power of the
new troika when Congress leader Sonia Gandhi unleashed her charismatic son and
daughter Rahul and Priyanka that unseated the BJP?.... Or was it no more than the age-old story--a
government that after five years in power had become complacent, that had lost
touch with the people. Certainly, the
perception among India's poor was that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance
was pro-rich, rooted in the cities, bent on an economic reform programme skewed
against them. The people's vote for change therefore has to be read in the
right context. It was not a vote against reform, but against the kind of reform
that leaves India's rural poor grappling with the effects of three years of
consecutive drought. The other significant
development is the almost certain shift in economic policy as the Left
considers joining a government at the centre after a gap of 15 years. The Left
is anti-privatisation, sceptical of the benefits of the IT revolution. The
answer they say is reform of the vast agrarian economy, ignored by government
after government. The Congress, which as
the single largest party looks set to form a government, will also have to
grapple with the thorny issue of making peace with Pakistan, a job that
Vajpayee has left half done. India is clearly facing many challenges ahead as
the baton passes from the right squarely back to the centre."
At Work In India"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald editorialized
(5/17): "The stunning victory of
the Congress Party and its leader, Sonia Gandhi, is a sign of health in the
world's largest democracy....
Vajpayee...expected voters to reward him for the new prosperity that has
come from the embrace of open economic policies. He miscalculated badly. India's new wealth is distributed as unevenly
as its old riches ever were. Mrs Gandhi, campaigning tirelessly in rural India,
had no difficulty persuading voters there that while India might be shining in
the cities, it certainly wasn't shining in the countryside.... Mrs Gandhi's reassertion of secular values
also counted in the Congress victory. The Bharatiya Janata Party, shadowed by
its roots in Hindu extremists, has exploited anti-Muslim feeling.... Secularism is one of the pillars of Congress
Party ideology.... Another pillar of
Nehru's ideology, constitutional democracy, has been vindicated resoundingly by
this election. Some will fear that a third pillar, Nehru's quasi-socialist
economic policies, will now be revived....
Government by the Congress Party, its allies and the left alliance
should be more stable than the unwieldy 25-party coalition Mr Vajpayee had to
deal with. The Congress Party has come a
long way since Nehru's time, as have the parties in the newly powerful left
alliance, which won 62 seats. They cannot allow a return to the economic
controls that shackled the Indian economy until comparatively recently. At the same time Sonia Gandhi and her
advisers must ensure the benefits of the new economy reach more of the people
who gave her their votes. If not, she will in due course meet the same fate as
Mr Vajpayee and his party."
CHINA: “Indian Diplomacy
Will Become Even More Steady”
Sun Shihai commented in official Communist
Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao)
(5/15): “The Indian ruling party and
opposition party are generally consistent in their diplomatic policies. In recent years, some of the BJP’s diplomatic
policies were earlier put forth by Congress.
The BJP just walked faster and more boldly.... Congress gradually wiped away its ideological
color with the end of the Cold War. It
can be trusted to be even more steady in conducting its diplomacy and will have
stable relations with China. After
Congress takes office, its U.S., Russia, China and Pakistan policies will
continue to be practical, and it will develop relations with all big countries
based on its national interests. In
politics, India’s ‘eastward shift’ policy toward East Asia will not change. Along with China’s increasing influence in
the region, the two countries’ interests will overlap but competition between
the two will not lead to conflict. Regarding security, competition between the
two countries is orderly and healthy.
China and India, as two great countries, must be able to practice both
competitive and cooperative relations.”
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS):
"Worries Behind Prosperity"
Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal
observed (5/19): "The dramatic
result of the Indian election is due to the miscalculations of the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) and not because the Congress party enjoys the ardent support
of the people. The BJP thought it could
not be defeated because the economy had improved. So, it moved the election up by half a
year. It did not anticipate that people
had changed their minds. Many experts
say that the cause of BJP's defeat was that the government's policies only took
care of a minority of people, particularly the middle class. The poor, especially the farmers, did not
share in the more prosperous economy....
However, the dissatisfaction of the farmers is not the key to the defeat
of the BJP.... In India, job growth is
far behind economic growth. 'Jobless
recovery' is not a problem faced only by western countries. The more hope the Indian people put into the
rapid surge of economic growth, the more people will feel disappointed. They finally show their dissatisfaction by
their votes, and the election result has surprised many people. The BJP has to step down even though the
economy is prosperous. This should serve
as a warning for democratic countries like the U.S. or a one-party country like
"The Difficult Challenges Ahead In India"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post
said (5/15): "The other India is
largely rural, still poor and still lacking in the basics of clean water,
electricity, health care and jobs. It
was this other side of India that, in five days of polling over the past month,
voted out Mr. Vajpayee and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and brought in a
left-leaning coalition led by Sonia Gandhi and her Congress party. The questions now concern who this new ruling
coalition will elevate to head the government, and whether, as some in the
business community fear, there will be an about-face on the privatization and
other economic reforms that gained pace under the BJP. All the signs point to a fourth Nehru-Gandhi
premiership, though there is sure to be some haggling within the party and with
its allies before it is confirmed....
The challenge for Congress will be to deliver on promises to spread the
wealth without alienating the investors who have driven the past decade of
"Indian Congress Party Will Not Bring Many Changes To
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked
(5/15): "People believe that Sonia
(Gandhi) will continue the economic reforms started by Mr. Vajpayee. On the other hand, she will also learn a
lesson from her predecessor and pay more heed to the poor.... For its relations with the U.S., the Congress
party adopted the principle of 'non-alliance' and tried its best not to be
pro-U.S. or pro-Soviet Union. The
Congress party still does not trust the U.S.
When the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, it insisted on conducting
nuclear weapons tests--but it also wanted to evade international
sanctions. The party therefore adopted a
new policy of rapprochement with the U.S.
To counter terrorism, the U.S. has in recent years tried to draw in
Pakistan. Has India felt worried or even
dissatisfied? The Congress party will
have some impact on improving U.S.-Indian relations, which are expected to
remain friendly and stable.... Although
the ruling party and the opposition are changing seats, this will not bring about
much change in India's domestic and foreign policies."
JAPAN: "Strain Of
High-Charged Economic Growth Triggers Change Of Government"
Liberal Asahi editorialized (5/17): "The results of the general election in
India surprised the world, as pre-election surveys all showed that Prime Minister
Atal Bihari Vajpayee's ruling party would secure a comfortable victory. It
appears that millions of rural people who have not been able to enjoy the
fruits of recent economic growth said 'no' to the ruling National Democratic
Alliance.... The new government to be
led by Sonia Gandhi will be required to reconcile religious rivalries and map
out economic policies that address the concerns of the poor, who have been left
behind in the ongoing economic boom.
Most developing nations have adopted an 'autocratic' political
management to pursue economic growth.
But, India's election results showed that the country is stepping
forward to growth through a democratic process.
This marks a sharp contrast to Asia's other giant, China. Other
developing nations should learn the Indian way."
INDONESIA: “Outcomes Of
Indian Election A Big Surprise”
Leading independent Kompas stated
(5/15): "The results of the Indian
elections were a major surprise.
Unexpectedly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Premier Atal
Behari Vapjpayee, who was popular and managed to advance the economy, was
defeated by the Congress Party under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership.... Regardless of the economic issues, the
victory of the Congress Party demonstrated the supremacy of democratic life in
India. Every citizen has equal rights in
every aspect of life regardless of his/her background. Her background as a naturalized citizen of
Italian origin did not by any means impede Sonia Gandhi to proceed to the top
“Congress Party In India Back In Power”
Independent Suara Pembaruan observed
(5/15): "Observers apparently
emphasized economic factors and the GNP as political parameters. They missed the fact that the majority of the
population is poor living on only one dollar a day. Sonia and the Congress have from the
beginning raised the poverty issue. They
raised two main issues, i.e. that the economic growth was a deceitful factor
because it did not touch the poor farmers and poor families in the villages
numbering 700 million people, and the corruption issue.... The Congress criticized the PBJ for being
incapable of stop corruption among the elite and the bureaucracy.... The other blunder was that the
Hindu-nationalist BJP kept cornering Sonia as a Catholic expatriate woman who
does not deserves the Premier position.
Despising ethnic background in the first and largest democracy country
in Asia was naive and backfired.”
“The Message In India’s Election”
The lead editorial in independent, English-language The Nation
read (5/17): “For the first time in its
history, the Congress that has ruled India for 45 of its 57 years since
independence will find itself doing the tight-rope walk of running a coalition
government.... But the BJP government's
ouster also shows some positive developments in Indian democracy. The voters have begun to realize the power of
the ballot. There has been a trend in
recent years to hold parties accountable....
This is a healthy departure from the pattern of the first four decades
post-independence when the masses showed a marked disinclination to try any
other party than the Congress. While the
impatience of the voter may be unsettling for policy makers, it will serve to
keep ruling governments on their toes. The message of the voters is clear: Do
“India Loves Her ‘Foreign Daughter’”
Thirasant Mann opined in moderately-conservative, English-language
Bangkok Post (5/15): “Now that it
has soundly defeated communal forces, the promise of a secular government must
be kept. And while pressing ahead with
India’s economic reforms, the new government must strive to meet the demands of
the disaffected rural poor, who have in no uncertain terms shown their anger at
missing out on the benefits of India’s economic boom. Above all, the people want Sonia Gandhi to
lead. The political parties must accept
SOUTH AFRICA: “Fluid India”
The liberal Mercury commented (5/19): "The overwhelming message of the Indian
election is that democracy works. The
Bharatiya Janata Party might have brought India an economic growth rate of 8
percent plus, but it failed to get that to trickle down sufficiently to the
bulk of the population which...was being marginalized. In a democracy, a government pays a price for
such a perceived failure. The outcome is
a re-affirmation in the developing world of the resilience and value of
democratic institutions.... Difficulties
lie ahead.... But these problems are
less than the deadening effect of endless rule by a single party. The miracle is that democracy does work in a
country of a billion people.”
“Mind The Gap”
Liberal This Day asserted (5/19): "When governments believe their own
election propaganda, it’s bad news for the country. But if the electorate don’t buy the hype,
it’s curtains for the government, as India’s defeated BJP coalition has just
discovered.... For those in the gutter,
India’s shine is invisible. The vast
rural population would not have benefited from the BJP’s reforms. The rural poor turned on the government and
trampled on it in the election.... The
politicians and the pundits have had a rude awakening. Democracies throughout the world should also
take note. Elections are decided by the
electorate, not the spin doctors.”
CANADA: "India Decides
To Follow A New Path"
The liberal Toronto Star asserted
(5/17): "That gloriously
unpredictable entity--the Indian electorate--has astonished spectators and
participants alike by executing a perfect somersault and neatly reversing the
foregone conclusion of exit polls and media punditry. In the event, it was a near-unanimous verdict
for the politics of inclusiveness--economic, social and cultural--and against
the rhetoric of divisiveness and xenophobia.
Indeed, it was the BJP's relentless 'feel-good' hype and its anti-Sonia
videshi invective that ultimately pushed the other 'un-shining' India towards
the perceived underdog--the written-off Congress Party.... Sonia emerged as the wronged widow offering
herself and her children as champions of the marginalized and
oppressed.... But it was not all soft
sentiment. Hard factors were at play too.
Rural drought and unemployment undid the fortunes of many smug
incumbents basking in the surreal sun of 'India Shining.' In other words, the track record of the
incumbent governments was also an important factor. To the extent Sonia Gandhi--reviled and
abused by her opponents and dismissed as a political neophyte by the
all-knowing pundits in the media--grasped this message, the credit for the
unlikely victory should certainly go to her.
Persistent questions about Sonia's foreign antecedents should be
silenced once and for all by the huge groundswell of support for her
party.... In the Indian case, in keeping
with the new demographics, the political shift should also be towards
youthfulness and energy. Let the new political dispensation, then, reflect this
overwhelming mandate--in favour of social and cultural pluralism, economic
inclusiveness and demographic transition."
"India's Massive Verdict On The Vajpayee
The leading Globe and Mail declared (5/14): "India's latest election has shown once
again that for all its problems, the world's biggest democracy is vibrantly
alive and well and reflecting not only the wishes of its vast electorate but
the country's growing technological prowess.
India's sheer ability to carry off a marathon nationwide vote with
relatively few missteps is worthy of praise....
The true test of a healthy democracy is the peaceful handover of power
by the governing party when the vote does not go its way. Prime Minister Atal
Bihari Vajpayee wasted no time in resigning yesterday after his governing
coalition suffered a stunning defeat....
The opposition Indian National Congress surprised the pundits by
emerging with the most seats, and is expected to team up with a handful of
smaller leftist parties to form the next government. That would vault its
leader, Sonia Gandhi, into the prime minister's office.... Mrs. Gandhi's 34-year-old son, Rahul Gandhi,
also won a seat in Parliament. The
Congress party succeeded by tapping into the growing anger of millions of poor
people, particularly in rural areas, who have seen none of the benefits of the
current boom that has transformed the Indian economy into one of the world's
fastest-growing. They rejected Mr. Vajpayee's economic campaign, run under the
slogan 'India Shining,' and repudiated his religion-based politics in favour of
the Congress party's traditional secularism."
"India's Democracy Votes For Change"
The liberal Toronto Star editorialized
(5/14): "Hundreds of millions of
Indian voters have just reminded the world that the most populous democracy on
Earth is also one of the most vibrant.
They have shaken the political establishment to its roots and made fools
of pollsters and pundits by sending Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his
Hindu nationalist-led coalition packing. The voters rebuffed his empty
"India shining" rhetoric and served sharp notice that more of the
nation's burgeoning wealth must be channelled to the grassroots.... This is a victory not just for Sonia Gandhi
and the secular Congress party of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira and Rajiv Gandhi
which led India for nearly a half century from 1947, but also for the principle
that policy makers are accountable to all the people, not just to the
affluent. Under Vajpayee since 1998,
India's healthy 8 per cent growth and cheap loan programs have bettered
middle-class urban lives, but have left behind 300 million rural poor.... Congress, which began opening up the closed
economy in 1991, promises to accelerate growth to make India a global
power.... Vajpayee's resignation may
usher in some political and economic uncertainty as Congress manoeuvres to form
a stable government with the support of left-leaning allies in the splintered
parliament. But Congress can now
distance India from Vajpayee's problematic Hindu nationalism.... Congress' rehabilitation also offers a chance
to improve up-and-down relations with Pakistan, after Indian nuclear tests in
1998 triggered an arms race and frictions over Kashmir brought them close to
war. Wisely, Congress vows to pursue Vajpayee's recent, hugely popular peace
"One Of The Gandhis, On Track To Rule The World's Largest
Leading Clarin maintained (5/14): "India is getting ready for a major
political change. Against all odds, opposition Congress Party, headed by a
woman born in Italy and belonging to the Gandhi political dynasty, led an upset
win in the legislative elections. Prime Minister Vajpayee conceded defeat and
resigned. Now, Sonia Gandhi is one step away from becoming the chief of the
government of the world's largest democracy with the mass support of India's
poor and marginal sectors. The
surprising result reflects the discontent of millions who were deprived of
India's notable economic growth. And it's a serious blow for Vajpayee's
right-wing Hindu nationalism, given that the Prime Minister took his victory
for granted.... None of the previous
opinion polls had forecasted such a scenario.... All in all, this victory represents an
unexpected resurrection of Nehru and Indira Gandhi's 'Congress Party', which
ruled India for 45 years."
"The Dark Sides Of Booming Economies"
Ines Capdevila asserted in daily-of-record La Nacion
(5/14): "They are the global stars
of growth; the envy of a large number of Latin American nations and their
failed economies; markets in which all First World countries want to sell their
goods; Asia's military and political powers. And they're the two nations that
are struggling--today--with the dangers of growing too vigorously, at enormous
speed and with too many poor and marginal people. In India, Vajpayee's official Party was
surprised by the dark side of an economic growth that for the past six years
successfully generated thousands and thousands of new rich people among the
middle class sector: and this dark side is the poor sectors that are always
there.... Sonia Gandhi, her Congress
Party and the 250 million poor reminded Vajpayee that 'all that glitters is not
gold.' If the Indian economy grew at an
average 6 percent in the past six years and mesmerized the West with its
progress, poverty never dropped below 25% and those that suffer it--outraged
because the economic bonanza the official Party usually bragged about never
reached them--suddenly overshadowed the Prime Minister's future."