NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indias Congress Party began the task of cobbling together a government Sunday after steering its ruling alliance to a second term in office with a resounding win over its Hindu nationalist rivals. Senior alliance leaders met to formulate strategy and to choose which parties it might approach about securing a parliamentary majority, having fallen just a whisker short of the required 272 seat majority. Party spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi told AFP that getting the handful of extra seats was not an issue for the Congress, with a plethora of smaller parties willing to team up. With all results counted, Indias Election Commission said the Congress alliance - UPA - had won 261 seats, with the partys individual tally at 206 - its best performance since 1991. The main Opposition grouping led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - NDA - had bagged a mere 159 seats. India has become used to unwieldy coalition governments which expend an inordinate amount of energy on simply staying together and not enough, critics say, on the job of policy implementation. In the process the Congress alliance trounced the BJP-led Opposition grouping. It also saw off its erstwhile communist partners, who had abandoned the ruling coalition last year in protest over a nuclear deal with the US. The communists won 22 seats - a disastrous showing for the once-powerful party. The people have rejected both extremes - the left and the right, said Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a political analyst and author of a book on Indian coalition politics. The victory means a second term for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 76, whose calm, pragmatic persona appealed to voters looking for political stability. The new govt is assuming office in the backdrop of a deep global recession and serious troubles in the immediate neighbourhood, spokesman Dwivedi quoted the premier as saying at the Congress leadership meet. He was confident the clear mandate will enable the new govt to respond to these two immediate challenges effectively, the official added. And there are security concerns over instability in South Asia, particularly in Pakistan, with whom relations plunged to a low following last years bloody militant attack on Mumbai. The media voiced a sense of public relief that the election verdict had been so clear cut. Finally, a Free Hand, was the headline of the Economic Times, which hailed what it saw as a landmark result. The people have spoken and spoken decisively: voting out confusion, voting in clarity, voting out schism, voting in development, the daily said. 2009 may just be the beginning of Indias century - a year when India dumps its old baggage and looks to the future with humility, unity and hope, it added. Some other newspapers focused on the contribution made to the Congress victory by Rahul Gandhi, the son of party president Sonia Gandhi and many peoples choice to succeed premier Singh.