Congress set to return to power in India

NEW DELHI, May 16, 2009 (AFP) – India’s ruling Congress-led alliance was set to return to power after taking a clear and commanding lead Saturday in vote counting from the country’s marathon general elections. Congress spokeswoman Ambika Soni said party leaders and their allies would meet later in the day to discuss how they would go about building the support they need to govern India’s 1.1 billion people.

The alliance will still need outside support to command a parliamentary majority, but a strong lead over the BJP alliance will make its task far easier.

Congress has spent much off the past week making overtures to the party’s former communist allies, who quit the coalition last year in protest at a nuclear deal with the United States.

According to the constitution, a new government must be formed by June 2. As results poured in from the Election Commission, projections by television news channels gave the Congress grouping as many as 250 seats against 160 for the main opposition bloc headed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“It is a decisive vote for the Congress,” said Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi, as wild celebrations broke out at the party head