17 May 2009

Indian voters celebrate Congress election win

5:47 am on 17 May 2009

Supporters of the Congress Party in India have taken to the streets to celebrate an overwhelming election victory.

Official results of the general election have yet to be declared but the opposition Hindu nationalists, the BJP, have admitted defeat.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have a large majority over the BJP party.

Outside the Congress Party headquarters, supporters banged drums and danced in the street, holding portraits of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Singh.

Political analyst Neerja Choudhury said India's electorate of 714 million people had voted for stability.

"I feel that people did not want anything divisive in these times of uncertainty. They felt that Manmohan Singh, being an economist, can handle the economy for instance", Choudhury said.

After five successive years of near-double digit growth that lent the country the international clout it has long sought, the Indian economy has been badly hit by the global downturn.

There are also major security concerns over growing instability in South Asia, particularly in arch-rival Pakistan, with whom relations plunged to a new low following last year's bloody militant attack on Mumbai.

Exit polls had predicted that only a handful of seats would separate the Congress and BJP alliances, a scenario that had prompted gloomy forecasts of a badly hung parliament that would throw up a weak, patchwork coalition.