Leading article: India confirms its status as a democratic beacon

This election result shows a welcome rejection of sectarianism

Share
Related Topics

Not for the first time, India has confounded expectations. Many assumed that the twin blows of the Mumbai terror attacks and the global recession would result in defeat for the Congress Party in this spring's elections. Predictions abounded of a resurgence of the forces of Hindu nationalism, caste-based populism and regional separatism.

Instead, the world's most populous electorate, after a month of voting, has delivered a sweeping victory for the incumbent government. The main opposition, the chauvinist Bhayarati Janata Party, was roundly rejected. So were the smaller parties of the unreconstructed left.

Happily, most of India's 420 million voters rejected the siren calls of religious sectarianism, narrow caste interest and local grievance, preferring the inclusive and tolerant message of Congress and its allies. The party also did an impressive job of appealing to India's younger voters - something for which that scion of the Gandhi/Nehru clans, Rahul Gandhi, has been awarded particular credit.

Dr Manmohan Singh becomes the first Indian prime minister to return for a second term in 25 years. And just as important, Congress's leaders now have a clear mandate for economic reform. Because the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance now has more seats than in the previous parliament, the government will no longer have to rely on the votes of its former Communist coalition allies.

They should be able to reduce impediments to foreign investment, dismantle farm subsidies, and resist pressure for further trade barriers. The enthusiastic response of the financial markets yesterday to the election result was a clear indication that India's burgeoning business community expects the government to unleash their nation's full economic potential.

Of course, no one expects India to change overnight. The country still suffers from significant problems. For all the economic growth of recent years, India still has more people living in absolute poverty within its borders than any other nation. Corruption is common and the bureaucracy stifling. Communal tensions also continue to run deep in many regions.

In policy terms, although the economic instincts of the government are generally sound, there are blind spots. Ministers have been dragging their feet on tackling climate change, despite India's particular vulnerability to the effects of global warming. The United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December will be a test.

There will be foreign policy challenges ahead too. Delhi's relations with Islamabad, while not as chilly as in the past, remain potentially volatile, as the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks demonstrated.

Yet for this chaotic nation - with its almost unfathomable religious, linguistic and social diversity - not only to hold free and fair elections but also to deliver stable government is a truly remarkable achievement. And all the more so when one considers the condition of its neighbours, with crisis-stricken Pakistan to the north-west and authoritarian China to the north-east.

India is a true democratic beacon. And now its leaders have a golden opportunity for reform which will entrench their country's prosperity. India's friends around the world must hope they grasp it with conviction.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Developer - Magento

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Greater London - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Ric...

SThree: IT Recruitment Consultant

£22500 - £30000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking for experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Children shouldn’t even know the word 'diet' — obesity and lack of body confidence are symptoms of the same cause

Natasha Devon
Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Deadmau5, Kanye West and Jay-Z at the Tidal launch event in New York  

Tidal: An overpriced music streaming service that only benefits the super-rich members of a messianic-like cult? Where do I sign up??

Michael Segalov
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat