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Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi returns to parliament after reinstatement

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NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi returned to India's parliament on Monday after a Supreme Court ruling, boosting the profile of his Congress party and its opposition allies ahead of a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.


The vote is not expected to affect the popularity of Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which enjoys a strong majority. However, the return of Gandhi, the scion of one of India's most renowned political dynasties, to parliament is expected to strengthen the voice of the newly formed, 26-party opposition alliance led by Congress. Lawmakers are expected to debate, and then vote, on the government's performance from Tuesday to Thursday.


Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather were prime ministers, was convicted in March in a case brought by a BJP lawmaker over 2019 comments deemed insulting to Modi and others with the same name, including the lawmaker. Upon his conviction, Gandhi, 53, lost his parliamentary seat and was jailed for two years but granted bail.


The Supreme Court last week suspended the conviction, allowing Gandhi to return to parliament and contest next year's elections. On Monday, Ghandhi entered the parliament building after showing respect to the statue of freedom movement leader Mahatma Gandhi in the complex. He did not speak to reporters. Lawmakers from Congress and other opposition parties gathered outside the parliament's entrance to cheer Gandhi and their new alliance called INDIA, or the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance.


The alliance is making plans to run against the BJP in national elections due by May 2024. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the decision to reinstate Gandhi "brings relief to the people of India, and especially to Wayanad", his constituency in the southern state of Kerala. BJP has said the Supreme Court has only suspended Gandhi's conviction and had not overturned it.


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