Chapter : 16

  • Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. He led the Congress to a massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections held immediately thereafter in 1984. The country witnessed five developments that were to make a long-lasting impact on our politics.
  • First development: The most crucial development of this period was the defeat of the Congress party in the elections held in 1989.The elections of 1989 marked the end of what political scientists have called the ‘Congress system’.
  • Second development was the rise of the ‘Mandal issue’ in national politics. This followed the decision by the new National Front government in 1990, to implement the recommendation of the Mandal Commission that jobs in central government should be reserved for the Other Backward Classes. This led to violent ‘antiMandal’ protests
    in different parts of the country. This dispute was known as the ‘Mandal issue’ and was to play an important role in shaping politics since 1989.
  • Third development: The economic policy started by Rajiv Gandhi, became very visible in 1991 and radically changed the direction that the Indian economy had pursued since Independence. These policies have been widely criticised but the various governments that came to power in this period have continued to follow this.
  • Fourth development: A number of events culminated in the demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya (known as Babri Masjid) in December 1992. This event and often intensified debates about the nature of Indian nationalism and secularism and often associated with the rise of the BJP and the politics of ‘Hindutva’.
  • Fifth and final development - The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 led to a change in leadership of the Congress party. He was assassinated by a Sri Lankan Tamil linked to the LTTE when he was on an election campaign tour in Tamil Nadu. In the elections of 1991, Congress emerged as the single largest party.

Era Of Coalition

  • Elections in 1989 led to the defeat of the Congress party but did not result in a majority for any other
    party.

• Though the Congress was the largest party in the Lok Sabha, it did not have a clear majority and therefore, it decided to sit in the opposition.

• The National Front formed a coalition government, but the BJP and the Left Front did not join in this government.

Decline Of Congress

  • The defeat of the Congress party marked the end of Congress dominance over the Indian party system began an era of multi-party system.
  • After elections of 1989 political development in India initiated an era of coalition governments.

Alliance Politics

  • The nineties also saw the emergence of powerful parties and movements that represented the Dalit and backward castes (Other Backward Classes or OBCs).
  • These parties played an important role in the United Front government that came to power in 1996.
  • The United Front was similar to the National Front of 1989 for it included Janata Dal and several regional parties.
  • Since then, there have been eleven governments at the Centre, all of which have either been coalition governments or minority governments supported by other parties, which did not join the government.
  • In this new phase, any government could be formed only with the participation or support of many regional parties.
  • This applied to the National Front in 1989, the United Front in 1996 and 1997, the NDA in 1997, the BJP-led coalition in 1998, the NDA in 1999, the UPA in 2004 and 2009.

Mandal’ Implemented

The period of 1980s-90s saw the emergence of many parties that sought better opportunities for OBCs in education and employment and also raised the question of the share of power enjoyed by the OBCs. The mandal commission was set-up to investigate the extent of educational and social backwardness among various
sections of Indian society. After investigation the commission recommended reserving 27 per cent of seats in educational institutions and government jobs for these groups. In August 1990, the national front government implemented the recommendations of the commission.

Political Fallouts

  • The 1980s also saw the rise of political organisation of the Dalits. The Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) it took a strong position in favour of political power to the ‘bahujan’, the SC, ST, OBC and minorities.
  • It was out of this that the subsequent Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti and later the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) emerged under the leadership of Kanshi Ram. The BSP began as a small party supported largely by Dalit voters in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
  • But in 1989 and the 1991 elections, it achieved a breakthrough in Uttar Pradesh. This was the first time in independent India that a political party supported mainly by Dalit voters had achieved this kind of political success. 

Communalism, Secularism, Democracy

  • During 1990s the politics based on religious identity emerged in India and debate about secularism and democracy came into light. After Shah Bano case of 1985, BJP emerged as a ‘Hindutva Party’.
  • The Babri Masjid was demolished on 6th December, 1992. After demolition, the news led to clashes between the Hindus and Muslims in many parts of the country.
  • In February-March, 2002, large-scale violence against Muslims took place in Gujarat. The violence began from Godhra.
  • This incident alert us to the dangers involved in using religious sentiments for political purposes.

Emergence Of A New Consensus

Lok Sabha Elections 2004

  • In the elections of 2004, the Congress party too entered into coalitions in a big way. The NDA was defeated and a new coalition government led by the Congress, known as the United Progressive Alliance came to power.
  • This government received support from the Left Front parties. The elections of 2004 also witnessed the partial revival of Congress party. It could increase its seats for the first time since 1991.