M A I N   N E W S

Democrats wrest House; Rumsfeld quits
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

George and Laura Bush
DOWN: George and Laura Bush

Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives from the Republican Party on Tuesday and were poised to win a majority in the Senate in an election seen as a referendum on President George W. Bush's leadership and the war in Iraq.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the face of US war policy, was the first head to roll.

He resigned tonight and was replaced by former CIA Director Robert Gates.

Addressing mediapersons, President Bush announced Mr Rumsfeld’s exit.

Rep Ike Skelton, poised to become Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, vowed to re-examine its US policy in Iraq.

The Democrats, who needed to pick up 15 seats in the House of Representatives to win back control of the chamber it lost in 1994, had won more than two dozen seats on Wednesday morning.

In the Senate, the Democrats need to win five seats with Montana also going to the Democrats. control of the 100-member chamber. The party had picked up four of those six seats — Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — on Wednesday morning and its candidate was leading in Virginia.

In Virginia, Republican Senator George Allen, a one-time favourite whose campaign got mired in his gaffes, including using the racial slur "macaca" to describe his opponent's Indian-American campaign volunteer, trailed former navy secretary James H. Webb Jr by less than 7,800 votes. Under Virginia law, the apparent loser can request a recount after the votes have been certified if the margin is less than 1 per cent of the total votes cast. If that happens, the result may not be clear for weeks.

Another tight Senate race was being fought in Montana where Republican Senator Conrad Burns was trailing Democrat Jon Tester by 1,700 votes.

The Democratic Party's gains in the House of Representatives places California Democrat Nancy Pelosi, at present the minority leader in the House, on the brink of making history - she could become the first woman Speaker of the House - a job she will inherit from current Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois.

Ms Pelosi was joined by Democratic leaders at a celebration rally in Washington after midnight on Wednesday. "Today, the American people voted for change and they voted for Democrats to take our country in a new direction, and that is exactly what we intend to do," she told supporters.

In Ohio, Democrat Sherrod Brown won a decisive victory over incumbent Republican Mike DeWine.

In New York, Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton easily won re-election, putting her ahead of the field for a potential presidential bid in 2008.

In a prominent gubernatorial race, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, won re-election.



The deal is important, US Secy Cohen told
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 8
Union Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar told former US Secretary of Defence William S. Cohen here today that endorsement of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal would alter the paradigm of the Indo-US relationship.

Underlining the need for establishing a strategic partnership between the two countries, Mr Kumar, who held discussions with Mr Cohen when the latter called on him, said more than US $ 150 billion of FDI was required to compliment domestic investments in the infrastructure sector to ensure double digit GDP growth.

Mr Cohen stressed that strengthening Indo-US relations in all its manifestations continued to be a major priority of the US Administration and that there was wide-ranging support for the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.



True Dubyaman, Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal
Bobby Jindal

New York, November 8
Bucking the anti-Republican trend, incumbent Bobby Jindal won a thumping victory to the House of Representatives from Louisiana's 1st District, cornering a whopping 88 per cent of the votes. Mr Jindal led a clutch of Indian-American incumbent candidates, most of them Democrats, who were in the running in yesterday’s elections and retained their seats with ease.

Early Indian-American winners as results began coming in included Minnesota State Senator Satveer Chaudhary, 37, a Democrat who represents Fridley; and Iowa State Representative Swati Dandekar, 53, who won for the third time.

Mr Jindal entered the House of Representatives for the first time in 2004, becoming the first Indian-American to do so after Mr Dilip Singh Saund made it to Congress from California in the 1950s. This election, he garnered 87.9 per cent, or 71,493 votes, leaving his three opponents far behind. Minnesota State Senator Chaudhary, a Democrat and the first Asian-American to be elected to the Minnesota legislature, retained his District 50 seat comfortably, winning 64 per cent of the votes.

An attorney with his roots in Haryana, Mr Chaudhary's constituency is largely white with hardly any Indian-American constituents.

In Iowa, State Representative Dandekar won for the third time from District 36 in Marion, beating her Republican rival Nick Wagner by over 10 per cent of the vote.

Another likely winner is Maryland House of Delegates majority leader Kumar Barve, often referred to as the "Dean of Indian-American Democrats" and the longest-serving US legislature of Indian origin. — IANS



News Analysis
No effect on N-deal
by K. Subrahmanyam

There has been so much of breast-beating and hand wringing in our media about the US election results and President Bush losing the majority in both Houses of Legislature that any reassurance to the mediapersons that this will have very little impact on the voting on Indo-US nuclear deal was received with great scepticism.

This attitude is largely due to an inadequate understanding of the US election process. The US elections do not lead to cataclysmic changes in the composition of the legislatures, as they do in India. For instance in the present election, out of 435 members of the House of Representatives, some 20 Democrats replaced an equal number of Republicans. Otherwise over 400 members of the present House were returned to the new House.

In the case of the Senate, only 33 seats were up for election since every two years, one third of the Senate gets re-elected. Out of this, some six Republican Senators have been replaced by six Democrats, and four replace seats left vacant. Which means, 90 of the 100 remain the same.

In a sense, the US elections are by and large a reaffirmation of the support of the community in their representative.

In the US elections, the party central command does not nominate candidates for elections. There are primary elections among the party candidates between the incumbent member and a challenger and the primary elections at the constituency level decide who will be the candidate for the main elections. Usually the incumbent Senators and Congressmen nurse their constituencies carefully. Therefore unless they retire voluntarily, get appointed to some other post or get involved in a scandal or scam, they get re-elected. Even Hillary Clinton did not try to replace an incumbent Senator, but offered herself for the vacancy created by Senator Moynihan who retired because of old age.

Therefore, while majority and minority status may change between the two parties, more than 90 per cent of the legislators in the two Houses continue to remain the same.

The President is elected by nationwide popular vote separately and he is not directly responsible to the two legislatures while he needs their concurrence for all legislative measures. He exercises his powers independently as Commander-in-Chief and in foreign policy.

The Indian nuclear deal was passed by overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives. In the Senate Committee on International Relations, the Bill got 16 to 2 majority. All that has happened is less than 10 per cent change in the personnel for the next Congress that will be initiated on January 20, 2007.

The American Congressmen and Senators are not like Indian politicians. They have a party loyalty based on broad philosophy but are not given tickets by the party. On voting they are rarely bound by the party whip. Therefore their views are formed individually on the basis of their own convictions. Consequently they are unlikely to say one thing when they are in the minority and change that and say the opposite thing when they are in the majority. If they change their views, they have to explain it to their constituents.

Therefore, one does not expect any significant changes in the views of Democrats and Republicans on the nuclear deal. The overwhelming bipartisan support evident in the present Congress may be expected to continue by and large in the next Congress. Therefore, there is no reason to be pessimistic about the Congressional attitude towards the nuclear deal.

When President Clinton faced a hostile Congress (both the House and the Senate) he shifted his focus to foreign policy, including India. Now that President Bush knows that his domestic programme will be blocked by the Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, he may also focus more on his foreign policy success, India. On foreign policy, the President has a lot of scope for initiatives outside the legislative scope of the Congress.



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