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The results of India’s elections are almost as monumental in their implications for the country as was the task of holding them.
Ending 30 years of intermittent rule by the Indian National Congress party and three generations of the Gandhi family, the party of prime minister-elect Narendra Modi won by a landslide in results released late last week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Gandhis conceded defeat after their party lost control of the lower house of India’s parliament.
The magnitude of the electoral process in a country with 1.3 billion people is staggering. Voter turnout, during elections that lasted from April 7 to May 12, was 66.4 percent.
The economy was the campaign’s principal issue. India has shown consistent growth, including a rate of 4.5 last year. Yet development and availability of public services across the country remain glaringly uneven. Vast numbers of Indians lack access to electricity, clean water, decent education, and health care.
Some Indian business executives, bankers, and politicians are among the richest in the world. But the country’s poor — and very poor — citizens remain numerous. Upward social mobility and greater economic equality are limited by caste and education.
Corruption also is pervasive in India, from the lowest clerical levels to oligarchs and political leaders. Mr. Modi pledges to attack these problems, pointing to his successful performance as longtime governor of the Indian state of Gujarat.
It looks healthy for India to exit the dynastic rule of the Gandhis and their party. But turning power over to a religious-based Hindu party, in a country with many religious minorities, may invite trouble. Mr. Modi does not have a clean record in that regard, but he may have learned some lessons over the years.
In any case, the United States will need to learn quickly how to work with Mr. Modi, given the importance of his country and the clear mandate he has received from Indian voters.
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