Home News Rahul Gandhi is in danger and may make a surprise comeback

Rahul Gandhi is in danger and may make a surprise comeback


Just last year, Rahul Gandhi and his once-powerful party, the Indian National Congress, appeared to be in trouble, posing little threat to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s consolidation of political power.

The Congress Party has not been competitive in national elections for many years, winning fewer and fewer votes each time Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is elected. Libel and was banned from serving in Parliament.

But on Tuesday, Gandhi and his Congress party led a broad opposition alliance that far outperformed expectations in India’s general election, setting the stage for a surprise comeback.

“He’s finally here,” said Rashid Kidwai, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. “He’s at least 17 million votes better this time, which is very impressive.”

On Wednesday, Modi’s party announced it had reached an agreement to form a governing alliance that includes two parties that do not necessarily share its vision. The Congress won 99 of the 543 parliamentary seats, an increase of 47 seats, while the alliance, which it leads, won a total of 232 seats.

The Congress party and its alliance of more than two dozen political groups described the election results as a “moral victory” over the BJP government, which they said was trying to amend India’s constitution in a way that went against India’s identity as a multifaith and secular country.

“This fight is to save the Constitution,” Gandhi, the son, grandson and great-grandson of successive Congress prime ministers, said as the results came in.

The first major sign that Congress might be able to fight back was May 2023Just months after Gandhi was convicted of defamation, his party won government in the southern Indian state of Karnataka from the BJP.

The boost was temporary; Congress soon lost power in three states to the BJP.

But political experts say that at the same time, Mr. Gandhi is also pushing for change within India’s oldest party, which has long resisted reforming an outdated organizational structure that isolates its top leaders from the grassroots workers who vote for the people.

The perception that Congress leaders were corrupt and out of touch led to years of defeat and ultimately to chaotic infighting within the party.

Party members say Gandhi has tried to reverse the decline of his party over the past two years by surrounding himself with young policy analysts who help him understand India’s challenges and party veterans who go into towns and villages the party is targeting to listen to the people. The party has also revamped its social media strategy, promoting its message on platforms such as WhatsApp and YouTube.

Mr. Gandhi also raised his profile by: Take two walks They travel across India – meeting farmers in their fields, vegetable vendors on city streets, drinking tea with recent college graduates and odd jobs – trying to express common aspirations with ordinary people.

Perhaps most importantly, the Congress has focused on a strategy of engaging and working with key regional forces across the country whose influence had waned under BJP rule.

Congress leaders have struck a series of “seat-sharing” deals with regional leaders big and small, strengthening the alliance against Modi’s party. To avoid splitting anti-BJP votes, the Congress has fielded its own candidates in fewer seats. Gandhi has campaigned aggressively with leaders of like-minded political groups across India.

Throughout the campaign, Gandhi also sought to win support by portraying Modi as a leader who would destroy India’s secular character, party leaders said.

Another Indian MP Srinivas BV said: “This is a victory not only for him and our coalition partners but also for millions of poor Indians who voted to protect the secular fabric of this country.” Congressional leadersabout Mr. Gandhi. “People are telling Modi: ‘You are not God, you are replaceable.’ ”

Since his election in 2014, Modi has sought to position Hinduism, the religion of about 80% of Indians, as central to India’s official identity. He has also pledged to stamp out corruption, reform the economy and help India become a “developed country” by 2047. But after his reelection in 2019, he has leaned more into Hindu themes.

Analysts say Mr. Gandhi’s efforts to contrast his vision for India with that of Mr. Modi have largely succeeded, even as some members of his party have jumped ship and sided with the BJP.

Many politicians who defected from the Congress to the BJP lost seats, including in West Bengal and Maharashtra, where the Congress and its partners had performed particularly well.

Throughout the campaign, Gandhi has been linking Modi to Gautam Adani, Asia’s richest man, saying the prime minister works for his wealthy friends instead of the vast majority of India’s poor. As if to vindicate the attack, the price of Adani’s flagship product rose in the two days after the election results were announced. in stock It was down 14%. (It recovered somewhat on Wednesday.)

“People directly link Adani and Modi — directly,” Gandhi told reporters after the election results were announced, referring to both men using a Hindi honorific.

Researchers who traveled across India during the election said Gandhi defeated Modi in many places by focusing on issues such as the economic hardships faced by millions of unemployed Indians and farmers. He also accused the BJP of poor governance and worked with local political groups to fight for social justice and empower lower-caste Indians.

Modi has traveled dozens of times to Uttar Pradesh to campaign for local candidates, a state where the changing fortunes of India’s two main political groups have been most pronounced.

The state is India’s largest, accounting for 80 of the 543 seats in the Indian parliament. The BJP has had its worst performance in the state since 2009, partly because of an alliance between Gandhi and a powerful local leader, Akhilesh Yadav.

Besides the 37 seats won by Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, the Congress won six seats, helped by an aggressive campaign by Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Vadra, who defeated a former soap opera actor who had served as a minister in Modi’s government. The BJP won 33 seats, down from 62 in the previous parliament.

The election results announced on Wednesday came as a huge boost to hundreds of thousands of Congress workers across the country who have grown tired of the internal fighting that has plagued the party for years.

Outside the Congress headquarters in New Delhi, Bansi Lal Meena, a senior Congress MP from Rajasthan, was delighted with his party’s performance.

“In the villages and at the grassroots, the BJP has been spreading lies against us for years — that we are anti-Hindu,” he said. “They are using my religion as a weapon against me to win votes.”

He added: “We are showing it to them now because our people are also in Parliament.”

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