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India's Revolutionary Restoration

Truly, the day before India's stunning election results were announced was the quiet before the storm. Instead of bold pronouncements by the parties, there were quiet calculations about possible alliances because everyone was predicting a hung parliament. But May 12th saw a 'tandava', a form of Indian dance which turns everything topsy-turvy, a dance of doom.

Indeed, India's politics was turned upside down, with the Congress Party, seemingly lifeless and leaderless, suddenly rebounding to claim victory. With that victory comes a restoration of the Nehru/Gandhi family that has dominated politics here since independence half a century ago.

The biggest factor in this stunning upset was voter anger at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The ruling BJP, the major partner of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), had brought the country unprecedented rates of growth, but its policies and, more importantly, its language seemed to ignore the vast majority of poor Indians who had benefited little from the country's new high tech economy. The BJP campaigned as if it deserved a coronation for the many good changes they brought. But instead of a coronation, India's voters preferred a restoration of the Gandhis.

The emergence of Congress as the largest single party and its alliance as the biggest grouping with 219 seats, is the most astonishing result in the history of Indian electoral politics, as was the Left's stunning tally of 63. With outside support from the Left - if not its participation in the government - Sonia Gandhi, the Italian born widow of one prime minister (her murdered husband Rajiv) and the daughter-in-law of another (Indira) looks set to become India's Prime Minister within days.