Congress Party Leading India Elections

NEW DELHI (AP) - India's governing Congress party was headed to
a resounding victory Saturday in the monthlong national elections,
media reports said, setting off celebrations and claims of success
by party leaders.

"We will sweep the election. The Congress and its allies will
form the government," Congress leader Motilal Vora told the Press
Trust of India news agency.

News channels called the election in Congress' favor based on
more than 70 percent of votes counted.

The CNN-IBN channel indicated the Congress-led alliance could
win more than 240 seats, and the alliance led by the Hindu
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party could take 160. The NDTV channel
gave Congress 241 and the BJP 165.

Other channels predicted similar results

If the trends continue it would be a better than expected result
for Congress and a clear victory, but still short of the 272 seats
needed to govern on its own.

While not conceding, BJP spokesman Balbir Punj called the
results "disappointing."

Congress "seems to have the upper hand," said Venkaiah Naidu,
another BJP leader.

As results came in, celebrations began outside the Congress
party office. Party workers set off fireworks and were dancing in
the streets carrying posters of party leader Sonia Gandhi.

The results would still require Congress to put together a
coalition. India has been ruled by coalition governments for most
of the last two decades, including the current coalition, led by
the Congress party.

According to the constitution, a new parliament has to be in
place by June 2.

The long, grueling campaign season produced few central issues
that resonated across the wildly diverse nation of 1.2 billion
people and 714 million eligible voters. Total voter turnout was
approximately 60 percent, the national election commission said, up
slightly from 58 percent in the last national vote in 2004.

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