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India’s opposition, written off as too weak, makes a stunning comeback to slow Modi’s juggernaut

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s bruised and battered opposition was largely written off in the lead-up to the national election as too weak and fragmented to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his powerful Hindu nationalist governing party.

It scored a stunning comeback, slowing the Modi juggernaut and pushing his Bharatiya Janata Party well below the majority mark. It’s unchartered territory for the populist prime minister, who needs the help of his allies to stay in power. That could significantly change his governance style after he enjoyed a commanding majority in Parliament for a decade.

The election results released Wednesday also marked a revival for the main opposition Congress party and its allies, who defied predictions of decline and made deep inroads into governing party strongholds, resetting India’s political landscape. The opposition won a total of 232 seats out of 543, doubling its strength from the last election.

“The opposition has proved to be tremendously resilient and shown courage of conviction. In many ways it has saved India’s democracy and shown Modi that he can be challenged — and even humbled by denting his image of electoral invincibility,” said journalist and political analyst Rasheed Kidwai.

The unwieldy grouping of more than two dozen opposition parties, called INDIA, was formed last year. Beset with ideological differences and personality clashes, what glued them together was a shared perceived threat: what they call Modi’s tightening grip on India’s democratic institutions and Parliament, and his strident Hindu nationalism that has targeted the country’s minorities, particularly Muslims.

The election battle is between “Narendra Modi and INDIA, his ideology and INDIA,” the alliance’s