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India’s Congress on the rise? Electoral gains could be ‘stepping stone’ to renewal and growth

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to emphatic wins in the last two national elections, a chant started growing louder among its workers – that of a Congress party-free India. But a setback for the BJP in its Hindi-speaking stronghold in this year’s polls has signalled a possible revival of the opposition, analysts say.

Congress trailed far behind the BJP with 99 seats compared to its rival’s 240 this year, but its unexpected victories together with allies in the region mean India’s grand old party may not yet be completely marginalised, they say.

Nowhere is the turnabout more evident than in Uttar Pradesh – which has the most parliamentary seats – where the BJP and its allies got 36 seats while the opposition INDIA alliance won 43 seats, including six by Congress and 37 by its ally Samajwadi party.

“Congress has revived with two yatras [cross-country marches by its leader Rahul Gandhi] and a spirited campaign. It has regained lost ground in northern states such as Haryana and Rajasthan. In direct contrast with the BJP, it has fared much better than in the two previous elections,” said Uday Chandra, assistant professor at Georgetown University.

“The election is a stepping stone to a productive five years ahead,” he added.

Analysts concur that Congress has come a long way since the 52 seats it won in 2019, compared to the BJP’s 303, but they say it still has much to do before it can hope to return to power in the future.

The shaky sentiment within the party was evident during this election when its de facto leader Gandhi switched his constituency from Amethi to Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh in the middle of the seven-phase election, after being defeated by BJP leader Smriti Irani in the last