The plenary session of the Indian National Congress in Delhi is held at a time when the party has been decimated by the right-wing dispensation. Today, while the Bharatiya Janata Party is ruling in 21 states, the Congress has only four, down from 13 it held when Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed to power in June 2014. It has been wiped out from large swathes in north, west and east. Since 2014, Punjab is the only state it has won and registered a modest showing in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. It did, however, win a series of parliamentary by-elections in several states.

The session in Delhi, typically organised once in five years, is the first after Rahul Gandhi took over as the party president from his mother, Sonia Gandhi. The sizeable attendance is an indicator that the Congress still has enough rank and file to fill up the 15,000 capacity Indira Gandhi Stadium.

During the session, the Congress called out what it saw as Modi government’s failures in the handling of the economy, foreign policy, farm distress, public welfare, etc.

In her speech, Sonia called the Modi government “arrogant”, and a political resolution said the Congress would reach out to regional parties to build an alliance against the BJP. But the biggest challenge for the party is to take the Congress’ idea of governance to voters in states where it has been out of power for more than a decade.

The organisation in large parts of the country is weak and without a cadre base. In less than 12 months, India will elect a new government, and the Congress has to convince the voters that it is capable of offering a credible alternative to Modi.