India’s Hindu nationalists elated at election showing

NEW DELHI, India (AP) — While workers were counting votes Monday inside a New Delhi election center, Hindu nationalists pounded drums and danced outside, elated by early results suggesting their party would get a chance to form India’s next government.
The Bharatiya Janata Party — whose straightforward ideology and promises of stability appealed to voters battered by political and economic uncertainty — expressed confidence the parliamentary election would end with it taking power. It was expected to start talks Wednesday with potential partners for a coalition government.
Jubilant party supporters danced in celebration outside one vote-counting station. Officials at the party’s national headquarters a mile away were subdued, awaiting more definitive results.
New voting had to be called three years ahead of schedule after politicians spent the last two years trying and failing to cobble together a coalition government. Congress pulled down the last of three governments, accusing a United Front member of supporting rebels linked to the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
But Monday, Congress leader Sharad Pawar said his party would consider an alliance with the United Front in order to keep the BJP from power.
The BJP gained from alliances with strong regional parties and the failure of the Congress to clinch such partnerships. Congress ruled India for 45 of its 50 years since independence, but lost power in the 1990s over corruption scandals and other setbacks.
For many, a BJP victory would increase concern about the rights of minorities and the future of free-market reforms. Its leaders preach that a conservative form of Hinduism unites all Indians — an affront to the 120 million Muslims who make up the largest minority in this nation of nearly 1 billion, and to liberal Indians who hold dear the constitutional separation of church and state.
The party also has said that it would favor domestic industry over foreign multinationals and put curbs on investments.
The last elections in 1996 resulted in a deadlocked parliament in which the BJP and its allies had 192 seats; the Congress and its allies 142 and the United Front 178.