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A New Indian Government

L to R: Kanchan Chandra, Mira Kamdar, and Sanjay Ruparelia. (Asia Society)
by Stephanie Valera
4 June 2009

NEW YORK, June 4, 2009 – After a month of voting and over 400
million eligible ballots cast, the Indian National Congress (INC)
emerged as the winner in India's recent elections with the largest
block in parliament. In the wake of the election, a panel of experts at
the Asia Society's New York headquarters looked at how the Congress
Party will interpret its new mandate, and whether it in fact has one.

Kanchan Chandra, associate professor in the Wilf
Family Department of Politics at New York University, was optimistic
that "politics has become a channel for upward mobility once again."

Chandra explained that given India's highly fragmented coalition
environment, even the slightest change can dramatically alter the seats
allocated. When asked how a fragmented government might affect India's
stability, she said this "can paradoxically be a good thing."

Sanjay Ruparelia, assistant professor of politics
at the New School for Social Research, pointed out that nine former
chief ministers are in the current cabinet, which reflects the Congress
Party's understanding "you need the political acumen of state-level
figures who have the clout, the experience, and the knowledge."

Looking ahead to what the new government will mean for US-India relations, Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, senior editor of the Hindustan Times,
participating via teleconference, said the key for this next stage will
be "getting down to the nuts and bolts [of negotiations] so that the
doors that have been opened [will] start to see things actually move
back and forth between them."

He expected progress on several US-India agreements, including
defense monitoring agreements, and increased foreign direct investment
(FDI) in the insurance sector.

There were a number of questions about India's growth and whether or
not Delhi will seize this opportunity to improve its infrastructure.
Moderator Mira Kamdar, associate fellow at Asia
Society, said she would like to see real investment in green and
alternative energy solutions, instead of focusing on nuclear power and

Finally, for India to achieve its ambitious growth goals the panel
emphasized the importance of investing in "human infrastructure," which
includes elevating the status and education of women.