India’s triumphant Congress prepares for government

NEW DELHI, May 17, 2009 (AFP) – India’s Congress Party began the task of forming a government Sunday after steering its ruling alliance to a second term in office with a resounding win over its Hindu nationalist rivals. Senior alliance leaders met to formulate strategy and to choose which parties it might approach about securing a parliamentary majority, having fallen just short of the required 272 seats.

“We had some pre-poll allies who will definitely stay with us, and the party will discuss whether it needs any post-poll ally,” said senior Congress leader Rajiv Shukla.

India has become used to unwieldy coalition governments which expend an inordinate amount of energy on simply staying together and not enough, critics say, on the job of policy implementation.

But with such a commanding victory, the Congress-led alliance will have no difficulty picking up the spare seats it needs to ensure a stable majority and will not be beholden to other groups.

“King Cong!” ran the front page headline in the Asian Age newspaper, which joined the rest of the media in admitting it was caught out by the unexpected size of the party’s election win.

Confounding expectations of a close result and a fractu