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Upset in India, reactions in US

A day after the Indian electorate revealed that it has a will, and mind, of its own -- and, significantly, that neither political parties nor pundits/pollsters are anywhere close to divining that will, that mind -- newspapers and websites across the United States greeted the news of the stunning upset of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his BJP-led coalition with shock and awe.

Below, find a cross-section of comment/opinion from across the country:

Huge Upset in India as Premier is Ousted (Star Ledger)

Although a new government has not been formed, Congress party officials said Vajpayee is likely to be succeeded as prime minister by party leader Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and the head of modern India's most famous political dynasty.

India's Rise to Power under Vajpayee (CNN)

He came to the brink of nuclear war with Pakistan only to temper his Hindu nationalism and sought peace with his mainly Muslim neighbour. Pushing through market-led reforms, he energized India's economy, but the boom times failed to deliver quick prosperity to millions of rural poor who deserted his coalition government at the polls. The 79-year-old bachelor -- who has arthritic knees and kidney disease -- was first elected to the Lok Sabha, the lawmaking lower house of Parliament, in 1957.

Indian Leaders Steps Down (Contra Costa Times)

Not a single major poll or pundit had forecast the defeat, which was seen as a repudiation of Vajpayee's agenda of privatisation and other economic reforms.

Though the economy is growing rapidly, for struggling farmers and the legions of unemployed, the coalition's message that an ascendant India was banishing poverty was a mockery.

India's Rural Poor Oust Ruling Party in Big Upset (Arizona Republic)

Millions of impoverished Indians angered over being left out of their country's economic boom handed the opposition Congress Party a stunning victory in Parliament on Thursday, reviving the storied Gandhi dynasty in one of the biggest political upsets since independence.

Gandhi Moves to Form New Government (USA Today)

Sonia Gandhi worked swiftly Friday to build a new coalition government, but the euphoria of her election victory faded as stock markets plummeted on fears that her leftist allies plan to wind back fundamental economic reforms.

The uncertainty has been compounded by Gandhi's refusal to state outright whether she will grab the prime ministership and become India's first foreign-born leader as early as Saturday.

Sonia Gandhi set to become India's Leader (The Oregonian)

Sonia Gandhi spent decades as a woman behind the scenes. Shy and Italian-born, she ran the household for her mother-in-law when Indira Gandhi was prime minister, choosing menus and managing the servants. She did the same for her husband when he became prime minister after his mother's assassination.

Upset in India vote lifts Gandhi to the Top (Chicago Tribune)

Not one poll or analyst predicted Thursday's rout of the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had called early elections on the strength of India's rapid economic growth and its progress on making peace with nuclear rival Pakistan.

Gandhi Dynast Set to Return (Boston Globe)

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, resigned last night after returns pointed to a victory by Gandhi's Congress Party, which had led India for almost half a century since independence from Britain in 1947. The party has been out of power since 1998. Gandhi, 57, the widow of slain Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, is expected to become the next prime minister, pending negotiations between the Congress and its leftist party allies.

The once (probably) future first family of India (New York Times)

When the cameras caught up to Rahul Gandhi in his rural constituency on Thursday, Mr Gandhi, the descendant of three Indian prime ministers -- and possibly soon a fourth --could barely contain his dimpled grin. It was a good day to be the latest star of the Nehru-Gandhi family dynasty. Written off as calcified, out-of-touch, visionless and nepotistic, that dynasty is poised once again to lead the world's most populous democracy. On Thursday, the Indian National Congress, which the family has controlled in fact or in spirit since before independence, emerged from elections as the largest party in Parliament.

Gandhi: Part of History, Controversy (Los Angeles Times)

Sonia Gandhi, the woman who Thursday staged one of India's memorable electoral comebacks, is a reluctant politician with a distaste for the rough and tumble of politics. Gandhi is said to have threatened to divorce her husband, Rajiv, after he decided to enter politics to succeed his assassinated mother and former prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

US Calls for Peace India, Pakistan (NewsDay)

Congratulating the Congress Party in India's elections, the Bush administration said Thursday it would keep encouraging India and Pakistan to settle their differences through diplomacy.  That approach reflects the desires of the people of the two countries for peace, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Losing Indian Candidate Commits Suicide (Seattle P.I.)

A political candidate shot and killed himself Friday after hearing that he lost in India's parliamentary elections, police said. K M Rahmatullah of the Telugu Desam Party committed suicide in his home in southern India, said Anil Kumar, superintendent of police. He sought election in Andhra Pradesh state legislature, but lost to D Narayan Reddy of the victorious Congress party of Sonia Gandhi. Rahmatullah's family said he was devastated by the defeat.

New Delhi news grips thousands in the Valley (LA Daily News)

Thursday's surprise victory of India's Congress Party riveted the attention of many of the San Fernando Valley's estimated 12,000 residents of Indian origin. "I wasn't shocked but surprised," said Inder Singh, a 69-year-old Tarzana resident and president of the New York-based Global Organization of People of Indian Origin. "This is democracy at work when the common man's right of expression works," he said.

In Thousand Oaks, the phone started ringing early Thursday morning at the Singhal residence. Mitra Singhal, 69, the former president of the Indian Cultural Society, said several of his relatives e-mailed him from New Delhi, the capital that he said is dominated by Congress Party members.

India election shock won't hurt business - US Execs (Forbes)

A shock victory by India's opposition Congress Party in the elections on Thursday left US executives uneasy, but optimistic it wouldn't lead the nation to drop its investor-friendly policies. The leaders of companies that have recently moved jobs from the United States and other countries to India because of its cheap-wage labor also found little immediate reason to worry. For while the Congress Party came to power partly because a majority of India's population resented being left out of the economic boom the country has seen in the last few years, it is still viewed as mainly pro-business.

India Investors Fear that Privatization Efforts May Stall (Forbes)

The biggest casualty of India's surprise shift to a leftist-backed government is likely to be a slower pace of selling off state firms, leaving companies from big refiners to shippers in limbo, analysts said on Friday.

FactBox: Major Polices of India's Congress Party (Forbes)

India's Congress party, which held talks Friday to form a new government after a surprise win in national elections, is expected to continue with economic reforms but with greater focus on the farm sector. 

Editorial: India Reverse: New Leader Should Dampen Religious Tension (Dallas Morning News)

Whether you like or dislike the surprising outcome of India's national elections, which yesterday forced the resignation of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, you have to love the process. India isn't exactly the kind of country where one normally would expect democracy to flourish.

Editorial: The Upset in India (Washington Post)

Mr Vajpayee has improved relations with Pakistan, gone out of his way to forge an alliance with the United States and advanced the remarkable program of liberalization that has turned India into a star economy. But if all that was unexpected, so was yesterday's news. Having called an early election to capitalize on his apparently robust popularity, Mr Vajpayee lost.

Editorial: India Shifts Course (NY Times)

Along with the coalition's drubbing came the equally unexpected revival of the long-fading Congress Party under its Italian-born leader, Sonia Gandhi. Mrs. Gandhi, the widow and daughter-in-law of assassinated prime ministers, capitalized on her family name. But she also benefited from uneasiness over economic change and a backlash against the BJP's religious divisiveness.

India's New Era - Salman Rushdie (Washington Post)

The fall of the Indian government is a huge political shock that strikingly echoes the only comparable electoral upset, the defeat of Indira Gandhi in 1977. Then as now, just about the entire commentariat was convinced that the incumbent would win; then as now, the opposition was widely written off; then as now, India's voters left the politicians and media with egg on their faces. Both elections are high points in the history of Indian democracy. An ornery electorate that doesn't do what it's supposed to do is a fine and cheering thing.



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