India's opposition Congress party lead by Sonia Gandhi has won India's general election.
The Congress party defeated the governing BJP party and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has resigned.
The Italian born widow of assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi will become the fourth member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to hold the premiership.
Speaking after the elections, Mrs Gandhi said she was pleased that her Italian heritage had not harmed Congress in the polls.
What does the surprise result mean for India? Why did the Congress party win? What do you expect from Sonia Gandhi's administration? Send us your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of the opinion we have received:
This debate has finished. Thank you for your comments:
Sonia has to fulfil the promises and works left behind by her great husband Rajiv. She won't get a second chance to prove this. She should also know that this time she has got fair number of people behind her. Good Luck Sonia.
Suraj Chhetri, Kathmandu, Nepal
This has caught Sonia Gandhi herself by surprise, let alone others. I am pretty sure that even in her wildest imaginations she would not have dreamt about this. She was thrust into politics by Congress members who wanted to use the 'Gandhi' tag to revive their fortunes. How prepared can a person be who has not been able to pick up the native language of a country in almost 40 years.
Pankaj Patel, Plantation, Fl
For the first time in my life I am ashamed to be called as an Indian. I was planning to go back to India - which I will never do now. I will be pulling out my investments in India soon as possible.
Priyam, SF, USA
There is no word to express my joys to see BJP as defeated. They should have never been voted to rule India, I can't believe that people have voted them ever. It was very surprising to see them as ruling party-how did they win last election? I don't know. However, now it is over! It is a past. They will never get a chance to come back to power from now on, I know for sure!
Rumana Hashem, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Sonia Gandhi's success in the recent election shows that India's democracy is mature. Indians cannot be taken for a ride and for a poor villager in Bihar or Gujarat, Italy could well be a city in Uttar Pradesh. Cut the rhetoric about "Indiannness" everyone. How can you justify your shiny cars and lavish meals in front of starving children???
sadhana seelam, Pleasanton, USA
Shame on Indians who voted for an Italian. Slaves to British, Slaves to Italians, slaves forever.
Mishi rehal, Indian
Sonia Gandhi, if she can deliver to the people, what she and her party has promised, can be good PM. It is not the individual who leads that matter, it is the policies of the parties which they represent that matters most!
Srinivasan Toft, Humlebæk, Denmark
It's tragic that people are talking about Sonia Gandhi as if she just got off a plane from Italy. What is to stop her and her beautiful children from settling down in an exotic foreign locale, no one doubts they have the money for it, and instead live in India, wear coarse khaddar, identify with the poorest? Who cares where she was born? Mother Theresa wasn't born in India, but we were happy to embrace her, weren't we? Sonia Gandhi will be successful despite everyone's predictions. All power to her.
Parvati Patil, San Francisco, USA
People in the upper rungs of the society thought that BJP is the party and it is a divine right for BJP to rule India. Welcome to reality - a democracy that is shining, India. I'm happy for India. I'm happy that our democracy works pretty efficiently than many are actually aware of. I have respect for Vajpayee but don't forgive him what has happened in Gujarat. I'm optimistic that the next govt will carry the mantle with more responsibility that would give dignity for all Indians.
This is a disgrace. I feel as if my soul has been crushed. The Congress Party is the party that exploits the masses for their vote the most. I cannot believe India has lost its grandfatherly prime minister who has shown he had the spine to stand up to foreign detractors, who was a poet and was loved by even Pakistanis to a lady who is more Italian than Indian. I have lost all my spirit
Dinesh K., Ahmedabad, India
Truly the largest democracy in the world is alive, vibrant and kicking. In true tradition of democracy Mr Vajpayee stepped down and made way for the opposition. How many countries in the world can show such maturity? We now only hope that Mrs Sonia Gandhi will also show maturity and give up the top post for a professional who is also a politician such as Mr Manmohan Singh.
Pajnigara, Mumbai India
It is shame that India a country of 1 billion population is choosing an Italian born to be there next prime minister. It is total disgrace for India if Sonia Gandhi is made the next PM.
Gopal Seethepalli, Reston , VA
I find it strange that government should be out of power because of economic progress. Sure, it has benefited only the rich and middle class, but does this mean that past government policies benefited the poor? At least someone is benefiting now! Having said that, the government has very little to do with India's economic progress - which is despite not because of government, or should I say the lack of it.
Ravi, Gainesville, USA
The results of this election is a victory for democracy and a defeat for both religious and market fundamentalists. The BJP tried to focus on Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins, while ignoring the real issues which plague hundreds of millions of poor people in India.
Brijesh Patel, Bombay, India
I feel sad for Mr Vajpayee and the misinterpretation of the people in India. Congress had won the hearts of the people with the Rajiv Gandhi image but in fact they now have a leader with no political experience (Sonia Gandhi).
Abhisek Chatterjee, Vienna, Austria
The election results are a surprise indeed. But the results signify something profound: the poor and the unprivileged have not largely benefited from economic liberalisation and globalisation. The election results call for political parties to develop policy frameworks which address the economic and social issues for all sections of society. A cut-copy-paste approach will not work in India. The approach to be taken is one embedded in local dynamics and consensus building.
Rishi Dhanju, USA/ India
The loss of the Atal Vajpayee is a great loss for India. Also, I fail to understand how we (Indians) can accept an Italian as our leader.
J. Singh, Stamford, USA
Another rocking win for Indian democracy. I was unable to vote as I am working abroad. Thank you India for doing the right thing - you're brilliant!
Surajit, Charlotte, USA
The continuous reference to Sonia as a "foreigner" and attacking her in every speech rather than telling the people of a country about development and progress, cost them dearly as people became sympathetic to Sonia and the results have shown it.
Mrs Jaya Khemchandani, Mumbai, India
Let's hope that this stunning electoral defeat of the BJP and NDA proves to be a loud wake-up call for Indian middle class voters, many of whom obviously didn't bother to cast their precious votes in these elections. In spite of having generated a lot of optimism and "feel good", especially among the 300 million plus (and growing) Indian middle class, through its business-friendly economic policies, the BJP and NDA failed to motivate the middle class to exercise their basic electoral right in mass numbers and consequently frittered away their main electoral advantage.
No party should rest on its laurels as there are a lot of things yet to be done. 'India Shining' appeals to few and isn't really an intelligent way of attracting the votes of the overwhelmingly poor population.
Aravind, Hyderabad, India
Although it is good that the poor have got their say, I think one of the contributing factors to the BJP's loss was that the people who were benefiting (the middle classes) very rarely go out to vote. Not wasting a holiday standing in queue, in midsummer, to vote has cost these people dearly.
Sunil Bhadekar, Mumbai
I believe that the BJP made the mistake in harping on too much about the Sonia factor rather than on the development aspect. People are more bothered about food, jobs and infrastructure, not about "shining". The shining was restricted only to the urban rich while the rest had to be miserable. I always felt that Vajpayee was the right man for India but in the wrong party!
Shatru, Hyderabad, India
I really feel sad at the outcome of the results. BJP really governed well and it is sad to see an Italian with no qualifications trying to run the country. But, I hope BJP will be back at the next general elections.
Bala Ramanathan, East Lansing, MI, USA
This is a clear victory for people exercising their democratic rights. The fact that poor and lower income group voters used their rights in great numbers while the urban upper and upper middle class stayed home didn't help BJP and their allies.
I think Mr Vajpayee's resignation was a great disappointment for India and its neighbouring countries. Hopefully Sonia Gandhi will allow India to enhance its peace process with Pakistan.
Aisha Hussain, Glasgow, Scotland
I am very disappointed with the results. Firstly, BJP was doing a great job. Secondly, out of all the people of the second most populous country in the world, could they only find a foreign-born person to lead the country?
Mishi Rehal, London
Oh well. Our most qualified candidate for the post of Prime Minister will now resign. And our country will probably be run by an Italian-born woman. Who says colonialism is over?
Krishna Reddy, New York, NY
I think we lost a most respectable and loveable prime minister. Mr.Vajpayee only thought about the other people. He spent his whole life in politics.
I am completely shocked to see the results of the Indian elections. But I hope that the Congress Party would continue the peace process with Pakistan along with Vajpayee's economic reforms.
Asfar Siddiqui, Islamabad, Oakistan
I feel sad for the BJP. It just forgot to balance the economically privileged with the poor and that cost them dearly. Congress needs to carry on with the economic reforms of the BJP, but take care of the basic necessities like food, clothing and housing for the downtrodden.
S. Majumdar, Gainesville, USA
I could not believe when I saw the election results today. Vajpayee is gone. How could India do this to him? He was the best and the very best Prime Minister India could ever have. Under his rule - India became a stronger and more developed nation than ever before. Now I think that it's all over. The economic boom will slowly die down and the reforms process will slow down. It is a shame that an Italian lady will rule India (a country of 1 billion people). Couldn't we find a single Indian to rule us?
Sahil Kumar, Minneapolis, MN
Congratulations to the Congress party. BJP's high-class oriented economic policies and fundamentalistic stance ruined their chances. You can't be in power by outsourcing and opening call-centres for middle class Indians. The common man was ignored: the price has been paid. Let's hope Congress does a better job!
Pele Roy, UK
I am satisfied with the outcome. BJP will learn that becoming a superpower is only next to addressing local concerns. I expect the new government to concentrate more on rural development and they should behave like a government for all the people and not for two percent elite.
Palanimurugan, Cologne, Germany (India)
Mr Vajpayee lost because he did not pay attention to the needs of the poorer community. Many people argue that the BJP is a party that only represents the upper castes. Consequently, it is the lower castes who have taken him out of power.
Ahsan, London, UK
This is democracy in action. A government change will serve as a check measure so that politicians don't carried away. Despite a loss for the BJP I wouldn't call it a clear victory for Congress. I predict trouble in the future for the Congress coalition in mid-term elections.
Srikanth Ranganathan, Chennai, India
Biggest loss for India. No country will tolerate a foreign born President and/or prime minister, no matter how good they are.
Chetan Desai, Antioch, TN, USA
It shows people have the ultimate power. They will kick Congress out in the next election if they cannot deliver. Hail to democracy!!
I am not sure if the right party has won for right reasons, but I am glad that this election was conducted without any major incident or muscle flexing. However I do believe it will be very hard for anyone to fill Mr Vajpayee's shoes. He has set very high standards of political wisdom and statesmanship. I hope Congress has learnt from its socialist past and does not relegate India back into heavy debt and grinding economy. Good to see this 60 year old dynamic democracy maturing so beautifully.
I think because no political party can satisfy all sectors, people always vote against the ruling party. Hope, Congress or whatever party is next in government will not undo the good deeds of Atal Bihari Vjapaie.
Neeta Gupta, UK
The people have spoken. Now it's the turn of the politicians to settle their differences and work towards a vibrant India. Vajpayee's dream of a developed India by 2020 should not falter. It should in fact gather steam.
This is a step in the right direction for India. Although the BJP had brought economic success, it was also fostering increased feelings of communalism that threaten the secular nature of India.
Srikanth Nair, Los Angeles, CA