Chapter : 12
What Are Parties And Party System In India ?
Challenge Of Political Succession
- Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru passed away in May 1964.
- This had generated a lot of speculation about the usual question of succession.
- The 1960s also labelled as the ‘dangerous decade’ when unresolved problems like poverty, inequality, communal and regional divisions etc. could lead to a failure of the democratic project or even the disintegration of the country.
From Nehru To Shastri
- When Nehru passed away, Congress members of Parliament found that there was a consensus in favour of Lal Bahadur Shastri.
- He was the country’s Prime Minister from 1964 to 1966. During his period he had faced three major challenges (i) implication of war with China (ii) serious food crisis (iii) faced a war with Pakistan in 1965. But shastri ji tackled these challenges in efficient way. He died on 10 January 1966, when he suddenly expired in Tashkent.
From Shastri To Indira Gandhi
- The Congress faced the challenge of political succession for the second time in two years.
- This time there was an intense competition between Morarji Desai and Indira Gandhi.
- Indira Gandhi defeated Morarji Desai by securing the support of more than two-thirds of the party’s MPs.
Fourth General Election
- Fourth general elections(1967), the country witnessed major changes is Non-Congressism.(The concept was given by socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia)
- Parties opposed to the Congress realised that the division of their votes kept the Congress in power. Therefore The parties that were entirely different and disparate in their programmes and ideology got together to form anti-Congress fronts in some states and entered in to electoral adjustments of sharing seats in others.
- The results jolted the Congress at both the national and state levels. The election results as a ‘political earthquake’.
- The Congress did manage to get a majority in the Lok Sabha, but with its lowest tally of seats and share of votes since 1952.
- Emergence of regional parties ex. a regional party —the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) . came to power by securing a clear majority.
- This was the first time any non-Congress party had secured a majority of its own in any State. In the other eight States, coalition governments consisting of different non-Congress parties were formed.
- The domination of the Congress over.
Since no single party had got majority, various non-Congress parties came together to form joint legislative parties (called Samyukt Vidhayak Dal in Hindi) that supported non-Congress governments. These governments came to be described as SVD governments.
- Defection means an elected representative leaves the party on whose symbol he/she was elected and joins another party. An important feature of the politics after the 1967 election was the role played by defections in the making and unmaking of governments in the States.
- After the 1967 general election, the breakaway Congress legislators played an important role in installing non-Congress governments in three States - Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The constant realignments and shifting political loyalties in this period gave rise to the expression ‘Aya Ram, Gaya Ram’.
Indira V S. The ‘syndicate’
- ‘syndicate’ i.e a group of powerful and influential leaders from within the Congress and had played a role in the installation of Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister by ensuring her election as the leader of the parliamentary party.
- Indira Gandhi did not want to became a puppet of syndicate. She chose her trusted group of advisers from outside the party.
- She sidelined the Syndicate, Indira Gandhi faced two challenges. One- She needed to build her independence from the Syndicate. Second- she also needed to work towards regaining the ground that the Congress had lost in the 1967 elections.
- Indira Gandhi adopted a very bold strategy. She converted a simple power struggle into an ideological struggle.
- She launched a series of initiatives to give the government policy a Left orientation.
Presidential election, 1969
- The factional rivalry between the Syndicate and Indira Gandhi came in the open in 1969.
- President Zakir Hussain’s death, the post of President of the India fell vacant that year
- N. Sanjeeva Reddy, as the official Congress candidate for Presidential elections.
- But Indira Gandhi silently supporting V.V. Giri, the Prime Minister openly called for a ‘conscience vote’ which meant that the MPs and MLAs from the Congress should be free to vote the way they want.
- The election ultimately resulted in the victory of V.V. Giri, the independent candidate, and the defeat of Sanjeeva Reddy, the official Congress candidate
- The defeat of the official Congress candidate formalised the split in the party. ‘Syndicate’ came to be referred to as the Congress (Organisation) and the group led by Indira Gandhi came to be called the Congress (Requisitionists).
Restoration of Congress
- The split in the Congress reduced Indira Gandhi Government to a minority.
- Indira Gandhi’s government recommended the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in December 1970.
- The fifth general election to the Lok Sabha were held in February 1971.
The outcome and after
- The results of the Lok Sabha elections of 1971, were as dramatic as was the decision to hold these elections.
- The Congress(R)-CPI alliance won more seats and votes than the Congress had ever won in the first four general elections.
- Contrast this with the performance of the Congress(O): the party with so many stalwarts could get less than one-fourth of the votes secured by Indira Gandhi’s party
- With this the Congress party led by Indira Gandhi established its claim to being the ‘real’ Congress and restored to it the dominant position in Indian politics.
- The Grand Alliance of the opposition proved a grand failure. Their combined tally of seats was less than 40.
- Soon after the 1971 Lok Sabha elections, a major political and military crisis broke out in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
- These events added to the popularity of Indira Gandhi. Even the opposition leaders admired her statesmanship.
Her party swept through all the State Assembly elections held in 1972.8
- She was seen not only as the protector of the poor and the underprivileged, but also a strong nationalist leader.