PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 October, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 October, 1999, 12:00am

The humble Indian voter, the proverbial 'common man', has done it again.

Disproving the number-crunching pundits of polls, who predicted yet another hung parliament, earlier this month he gave a clear mandate to the National Democratic Alliance, a disparate but stable coalition of more than 20 parties led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party under the veteran leadership of the popular poet-politician, Atal Behari Vajpayee. But, the shrewd voter has given the winners just enough of a lead to survive only on a broad-based progressive agenda of economic reforms and development. Any attempt to indulge in retrograde policies based on religion or caste, could see the majority eroded. To the loser, the monolithic Congress Party which had ruled India for most of the period since independence, the voter's message is equally clear - dynastic politics and pretty faces ceased to win elections in India long ago.

The poor, simple, plain, ordinary common man has been the backbone of Indian democracy. His life may still be 'nasty, brutish and short' (as Thomas Hobbes once described mankind's fate), but despite his personal poverty and privations, he has remained steadfast in his duties and responsibilities as a citizen.

If the collapse of colonialism and march of democracy are the greatest achievements of the 20th century, the Indian common man should be supremely eligible to be declared the international man of the century. Some 50 years ago, he turned the thoughts of one man into a unique non-violent movement to end centuries of colonialism in India which later helped several other nations in the world free themselves of the colonial yoke.

When the world's biggest democracy turned authoritarian almost overnight during the mid-1970s, he voted out the culprit, the Congress Party which had been in power for three long decades.

He showed no mercy either to the next government when it failed to maintain unity or to govern properly.

In the 1990s he has steered the country, much to the disbelief of political pundits, to a new era of coalition politics, which is an unmistakable sign of a mature democracy. Hats off to the mighty little Indian common man.