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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Indian press consider surprise result
Newspapers across India agree that the success of Congress sweeping the coalition led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power was an unexpected debacle for the government.

Front pages of Indian newspapers
Headline writers relayed the shock result
They blamed the BJP's "arrogance" and a "disconnect" with the country's grimmer realities for its defeat.

Most of the newspapers printed huge pictures of Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi on their front pages, and cartoons of the prominent winners and losers.

"King Cong, Queen Sonia," headlined the irreverent Times of India using the shortened nickname of the victorious Congress party.

Most of the newspapers said the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)'s defeat was unexpected, and left the pollsters and analysts feeling foolish.

'Tidal Wave'

"Shock and awesome," read the Hindustan Times headline while The Telegraph declared: "The BJP swept away in tidal wave."

"There is little doubt the verdict was stunning and momentous. Its scale left even seasoned observers stunned, while all pollsters ran for cover," wrote Mahesh Rangarajan in the Telegraph.

[The BJP] lost touch with the complex reality of a nation called India
Indian Express
The Hindustan Times said: "In no election in the past had opinion and exit polls gone so wrong."

So what was the message that the Indian voter was sending in throwing out the BJP-led government and voting in a Congress-led alliance?

The Indian Express said: "Their [voters'] message to their leaders is ruthless in its clarity: Deliver, or face oblivion."

And what went wrong with the BJP's much-hyped performance and election campaign?

The newspapers said the BJP had lost touch with the grimmer realities of Indian life and believed its own "India Shining" campaign, perceiving a feel-good factor.

Cartoons in Indian press about election result
Drawings were used to indicate the winners and losers
The Indian Express said the BJP "inflated [defeated Prime Minister] Atal Behari Vajpayee into a larger than life figure and hoped to continue in power by riding on his shoulders".

"It mistook one good year of fairly sustained growth as evidence of the country having entered the league of economic superpowers. It perceived brisk cell-phone sales and cheap housing loans as symbolising a nation on the move," it said.

"It believed that it could wish away the... communal riots in Gujarat... and move on. It felt it could get away with the numerous scandals during its six years in power...

"Somewhere the NDA, and more specifically the BJP, lost touch with the complex reality of a nation called India."

'Out of touch'

The Hindustan Times felt that the BJP's "arrogance and smugness" had led to its downfall at the hosting.

"The sheer smugness of the BJP leaders led them to lose contact with the people of India... Such was its arrogance that the BJP wanted to take credit for everything," wrote analyst Vir Sanghvi.

It is better to be a poor person in Botswana or the Occupied Territories of Palestine than one in India
P Sainath,
The Hindu
"The... software boom, which had nothing to do with the BJP, was appropriated by the party. The fact that this... was made possible by the hard work of all Indians... was forgotten."

Renowned analyst P Sainath, writing in The Hindu, said the election results drove home the "sheer disconnect between the Indian elite and the Indian people".

"At the height of India Shining, our rank on the [United Nations'] Human Development Index made sad reading. It is better to be a poor person in Botswana or the Occupied Territories of Palestine than one in India," Mr Sainath wrote.

He talked of the "second huge disconnect" - that "between the mass media and the mass reality".

He regretted that while there were more than 400 journalists to cover a fashion pageant, there was "almost none to cover the agricultural crisis in any informed way".

"The media have decided that 70% of the population does not make news. The electorate has decided otherwise."

The newspapers said the other reason for the BJP's defeat was the party's incessant and shrill campaign about Sonia Gandhi's "foreign origin".

"The attacks probably helped Sonia gain a sense of empathy from the voters. All the more so once Rahul entered the fray and Priyanka hit the trail," Mahesh Rangarajan wrote in The Telegraph.

The Indian Express concluded its editorial saying that "Election 2004 was about rising popular expectations and the ability - or inability - of leaders to address them."

India votes 2004: Full in-depth coverage here

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