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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Rahul Gandhi Set to Lead Opposition as Modi Begins Third Term

Rahul Gandhi is nominated to lead India’s opposition as Narendra Modi begins his third term with a coalition government after a surprising election result revitalized the Congress party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chief rival, Rahul Gandhi, was nominated on Saturday to lead India’s opposition in parliament after a surprising election result that revitalized his Congress party. Modi will be sworn into office for a third term this weekend after a poll that deprived his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of a majority, necessitating reliance on coalition allies.

Gandhi defied expectations and exit polls, helping Congress nearly double its parliamentary seats to 99, its best showing since Modi’s rise to power a decade ago. On Saturday, Congress leadership voted unanimously to recommend Gandhi’s election as India’s official opposition leader, a position vacant since 2014. Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal announced the unanimous resolution at a news conference.

Parliament and Political Dynamics

The nomination will be presented to the Congress-led opposition alliance’s 232 lawmakers later on Saturday. Gandhi, from the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, is poised to become the official opposition leader when the new parliament convenes, likely early next week. Parliamentary rules require the opposition leader to come from a party with at least 10 percent of the 543-seat lower house, a threshold Congress met with 99 seats.

The opposition leader post had been vacant for 10 years due to Congress’s poor performance in previous elections. The recent election results marked a significant comeback for Congress, doubling its parliamentary representation from 52 to 99 seats. A Congress executive statement acknowledged the challenges ahead in regaining credibility and returning to government but expressed determination to build on the momentum.

Modi’s Coalition and New Government

Despite ruling outright for the past decade, Modi’s BJP failed to secure a third consecutive landslide win, leading to quick negotiations with the 15-member National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition. The NDA secured 293 seats in the next parliament, 21 above the simple majority required. Modi and his new ministers will be sworn in by President Droupadi Murmu on Sunday evening.

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No details have emerged about potential concessions made during coalition talks, but several larger allies are reportedly seeking cabinet posts. Modi’s third term will begin with a coalition government, a shift from the BJP’s previous dominance.

Legal Challenges and Political Controversies

Gandhi faces ongoing legal challenges, which he claims are politically motivated by Modi’s government. Last year, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment in a Gujarat case but avoided jail time by appealing to India’s top court. His brief disqualification from parliament was suspended by the Supreme Court. Gandhi also appeared in court recently in Bengaluru, accused by a BJP member of corruption allegations against the party.

US think tank Freedom House noted the BJP’s use of government institutions to target political opponents. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, an ally of Gandhi, was jailed this year in a graft investigation. These legal battles highlight the contentious political environment as Modi starts his third term and Gandhi prepares to lead a revitalized opposition.