Two winners

The upset in India’s parliamentary elections — in which the Congress Party of Sonia Gandhi and its left-wing allies defeated the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee — affirms two values that are under assault elsewhere: democracy and secularism.

The US may fret that Congress will be less ardent than the BJP to pursue an economic model oriented toward privatisation and deregulation. But the Congress initiated India’s economic liberalisation in the early ‘90s. And in the states they now govern, India’s communists are keen to emulate the free-market policies of China’s communist rulers.

What the newly elected politicians are pledging to give the rural poor is a more equitable share of the new wealth being created in India. India’s course correction ought to be welcomed as a demonstration of democracy’s greatest virtue: the accountability the governed may demand of those who govern. Voters also were rejecting the religious chauvinism of the BJP’s Hindu nationalism. They were voting to keep India secular.

India’s new government will be a force for stability if it pursues the current peace process with Pakistan, improved relations with China, and cooperation against international terrorism. The world’s largest de-mocracy will then be living up to Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy of non-violence. — The Boston Globe