By doubling its number of seats after the legislative elections, the Congress, the main opposition party in India, defied the polls which predicted a crushing defeat for the former dominant party against the nationalist Narendra Modi.

The famous party of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty had become a shadow of itself after suffering two humiliating defeats in 2014 and 2019 against Prime Minister Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Polls had predicted a new collapse for the party of Rahul Gandhi, the heir to the first Indian political dynasty.

The main opposition group should obtain 99 seats in the lower house which has 543, almost double compared to 2019.

On Tuesday, in New Delhi, enthusiastic supporters waved, to the rhythm of drumbeats, giant flags at the headquarters of the Congress party, which dominated Indian political life for almost half a century after independence.

For the first time in ten years, the BJP will not have an absolute majority and will have to rely on its coalition allies.

Congress supporters attribute this performance to the “astute” leadership of Rahul Gandhi, 53, the party's leading figure.

– “Promises kept” –
Son, grandson and great-grandson of prime ministers, “Rahul worked hard day and night. He deserves all the honors. He single-handedly lifted the party,” says Avneesh Jain, a party member.

“At this rate, we will certainly win the next elections,” he wants to believe.

Mr. Gandhi's political ambitions were hampered in particular by the dozen complaints filed by members of the BJP against him.

He was briefly banned from parliament last year after being convicted of defamation and his party's bank accounts were frozen by the taxman this year.

Determined, Mr. Gandhi continued to attack Mr. Modi and the BJP, denouncing their agenda of “division” which he said seeks to marginalize the country's 200 million-strong Muslim minority.

“Our bank accounts were seized. We did not have enough money to participate in the elections,” says Alka Lamba, a senior party official.

“But the people supported us. The results restored confidence in the Congress leaders, particularly Gandhi, who was faced with his rival's well-oiled electoral machinery.”

“Rahul Gandhi kept his promises to the young and the poor,” said Ziya Us Salam, political analyst and author.

– “Signs of renewal” –
“He also got rid of his very unfair label of +pappu+ (witless),” he says.

According to him, “he has the credibility that Modi does not have. Modi only indulged in speeches of division and sectarianism. He had nothing constructive to offer to the masses.”

He was re-elected to Parliament with a lead of more than 364,000 votes in the southern Wayanad constituency and more than 389,000 votes for the Rae Bareli seat in northern India.

Rajeev Shukla, a Congress parliamentarian, attributes the party's revival to Mr. Gandhi's trip across the country last year to meet the people.

“The long walk did wonders. He came into contact with the people on the ground, which made all the difference.”

According to VS Chandrasekar, former editor-in-chief of the Press Trust of India news agency, the Congress results show that it remains a pillar of Indian political opposition.

“The BJP government got away with it because of the weakness of the opposition in Parliament,” he emphasizes, but “now that the opposition has more than 200 members, the government will be subjected to strong constraints.

Mr Chandrasekar praises the heir of India's most illustrious family for taking on a tough fight with the ruling party, “without any fear”.

“The Congress is showing signs of revival, which is good for democracy. India needs a strong opposition,” said Chandrasekar.

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