THE largest democracy in the world has lived up to its name by running a largely free-and-fair general election almost wholly devoid of violence or fraud and decided on political lines rather than by religion, caste or region. The incumbent Congress Party got closer to an overall parliamentary majority than anyone had thought possible and it should have no difficulty in finding a like-minded coalition partner to give it the relatively few extra votes it needs.

The result is a triumph for Manmohan Singh who can resume his level-headed premiership without worrying too much about the destructive opposition he met in the last parliament. Dr Singh is 76-years-old now and this may be his last spell in office. With that in mind it was also encouraging to see the emergence of yet another Gandhi -- Rahu, the 39-year-old son of Sonia Gandhi who ran an impressive campaign in Uttar Pradesh and who must be a strong candidate for the top job in the future. India has huge problems but it also has enormous human resources to tackle them and a collective common sense which sees the advantage of the ballot box. As a country it deserves all the support that like-minded countries can give it in an area where democracy struggles to survive. The contrast between India and its nearest neighbour, Pakistan, is stark.