We’ve just finished with the world’s biggest and noisiest election: this is finally the world’s largest democracy. It was fairer and freer than any we have known in the past, with more than half the electorate casting their votes. What seemed to be missing were real issues confronting the country. Most of it seemed on the surface, as ego clashes between aspiring politicians who hurled invectives against each other with little concern for laws against libel or slander. However, on closer examination one was able to detect that the electorate had sensed more was at stake than who would be the country’s next prime minister—Manmohan Singh or L.K. Advani, or Sharad Pawar, Mayawati, Nitish Kumar or someone no one had thought of as a prospective candidate. Every voter seemed to have sensed that this election would determine whether India would remain a secular democracy as envisaged by Gandhi and Nehru or become a Hindu rashtra as dreamt of by Vir Savarkar and Golwalkar. The UPA stood for the Gandhi-Nehru model; the BJP and its allies for a Hindu rashtra with a secular facade.
The UPA has won a more convincing victory than I had hoped for: getting close to a majority on its own. I had hoped, without really believing it, that they would cross 185. Three factors contributed to its victory: Manmohan Singh’s image of a clean and able prime minister, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s vigorous campaign, and the eclipse of the Communists under the negative leadership of Prakash Karat. The Communists could have played a more constructive role in preserving secularism. However, secularism has been saved by the people of India.