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Indian electoral drama fascinates US

The dramatic electoral defeat of the BJP-led NDA coalition, and the upset victory of the Congress, continues to make headlines and find space on editorial and Op-ed pages across the United States.

Tuesday morning, radio stations including National Public Radio repeatedly aired live reportage out of New Delhi, where Congress leader Sonia Gandhi sprang a surprise by declaring that she would not take up office of the prime minister.

Meanwhile, editorial and Op-ed writers remain unsure of what to make of it all. Wait and watch seems the consensus, though some - including the influential Tom Friedman, writing in the Houston Chronicle and elsewhere - express open disappointment with the results.

See below, a cross-section of comment in major US newspapers:

India's Next Moves (Washington Times)

The main question now remains: Will the new government effectively continue the previous government's peace process with Pakistan and economic reforms? Yes and no, seem the likely answers. The Congress Party is expected to be as or more committed to improving relations with Pakistan. India's new economic agenda, though, looks more dubious.

The India Upset (San Francisco Chronicle)

WHEN THE GLOBE'S largest democracy swerves from right to left, the world takes note. But the upset victory of Sonia Gandhi may yield a moderate course correction, not a new direction.

Setting up for the vote, the ruling Hindu nationalist party trotted out an "India Shining'' slogan keying on calmer relations with Pakistan and a home economy growing by 8 percent. Peace and bread normally win anywhere. But politics aren't fair. The incumbents passed over the countryside where 700 million of India's 1 billion citizens live. Even in the big cities, the center of India's tech boom, millions wanted water systems more than much- ballyhooed call centers and software office parks.

Tom Friedman - Uncle Sam's Coattails Didn't Reach India (Houston Chronicle)

Will Yoda frequent Wehrkunde no more? That question is code for this scribe's personal and disappointed reaction to the defeat of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's coalition government in India just as it threatened to become an important U.S. partner and a major player in global economics and politics.

I'll decrypt that knee-jerk reaction at the end, after setting the larger scene. Positive outcomes integrating India into the global economy or improving New Delhi's relations with Washington, for example may still be attained under the new coalition government to be run by the Congress Party. But the prospects for either are less promising than they would have been under Vajpayee, who was President Bush's most unlikely strategic partner abroad.

Democracy Wins (New York Post)

IN last week's elections, the world's largest democracy - India - booted an economically progressive, peace-seeking government that had supported the United States to a degree unprecedented for New Delhi, and returned a notoriously corrupt party of obsolete demagogues to power.

It was a triumph for democracy, and good news for America. With Iraq demanding the media's attention, the slight commentaries on India's elections thus far have described a strategic setback for America, given the victorious Congress party's role in forming the anti-American "Non-aligned Movement" half a century ago.

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