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India year in review: From a leader's rise to a leader's fall

The field of politics was buzzing with activity in 2014. After 30 years, India saw a political party crossing the majority mark in the Lok Sabha elections. The country was also rocked by several controversies, including that erupting from incidents of communal violence. Here are the top 10 events in the political arena.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2014 21:40 IST

The field of politics was buzzing with activity in 2014. After 30 years, India saw a political party crossing the majority mark in the Lok Sabha elections. The country was also rocked by several controversies, including that erupting from incidents of communal violence. Here are the top 10 events in the political arena.

1) The BJP juggernaut and Modi wave

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BJP supporters celebrate wearing Narendra Modi masks. (Photo: Agencies)

The year 2014 marked the spectacular rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Narendra Modi. An articulate BJP played their cards well ahead of the April-May Lok Sabha elections, targeting then ruling Congress over price rise, unemployment and a slump in economy.

As the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, Modi covered the length and breadth of the country, addressing rallies while selling dreams of 'achche din (good days)' and highlighting the Congress' failures. The result was evident. The BJP alone won 282 of the 543 seats, becoming the first party to cross the majority mark of 272 since 1984.

Together, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 336 seats. Modi took oath as the 15th Prime Minister of India in May. Barring a few glitches in bypolls in Karnataka, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, the BJP rode on the 'Modi wave' when it mattered most. The saffron party formed its first governments in Haryana and Maharashtra later in the year.

HT SPECIAL |Year in review : 2014

2) Communal flare-ups and conversions

Communal violence and religious conversions have long been a lightning rod for identity politics in India, whose history is scarred with episodes of blood-letting of citizens divided on faith and ethnicity. Such religion-driven politics took a backseat in the last decade of economic boom, but signs of a more assertive Hindu right have surfaced since the election of BJP government, adding to a climate of fear.

Several incidents of communal violence cast a pall on India in 2014. Clashes between Sikh and Muslim communities left three dead and many injured in Saharanpur in July. In the Capital, more than 14 people including 13 policemen were injured in communal clashes after Diwali. In Meerut, a young Hindu teacher in a madrassa alleged gang-rape and forced conversion in August. A mob killed a Muslim techie in Pune over morphed pictures of late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackery, Chhatrapati Shivaji and some Hindu gods in June. The incidents triggered a debate on the secular fabric of the country, even as opposition parties slammed the BJP-led government at the Centre.

Tension reached its peak after the alleged conversion of dozens of Muslims in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, in December.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliate groups announced plans for more such 'ghar-wapsi (homecoming)', with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat daring political rivals to bring in a law to ban religious conversions if they wanted to stop such events. The issue triggered a ruckus in the Winter Session. The ruling BJP, however, distanced itself from the controversy and said it was against forced conversions.

3) Controversies galore: The Narendra Modi government ran into several controversies after assuming charge in May. From Smriti Irani's educational qualification to the issue of abrogation of Article 370 that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the ruling BJP drew flak from the Opposition over several issues. Faced with stiff resistance, the government also had to soften its stand to promote Hindi on official social media platforms.

Moreover, the Centre's decision to drop German as an alternative to Sanskrit as third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas kicked up a storm. The move is expected to affect over 70,000 students across 500 KVs from classes 6 to 8 who will be asked to switch from German to Sanskrit.

Recently, the government also found itself at the receiving end in Parliament over its plans to observe the birthdays of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Hindu Mahasabha leader Madan Mohan Malaviya as Good Governance Day in educational institutes on Christmas. Also, minister Niranjan Jyoti's use of foul language during an election campaign in Delhi, forcing Modi to make a statement in Parliament following an uproar.

4) Sunanda Pushkar's death: Sunanda Pushkar, the 52-year-old industrialist wife of former Union minister Shashi Tharoor, was found dead at a seven-star hotel in the Capital in January.

She died within two days of her Twitter spat with a Pakistani journalist, Mehr Tarar, over an alleged affair with the minister. Around six months later, the head of the team of AIIMS doctors which conducted her autopsy said he was asked by a ministerial colleague of Tharoor to certify the death as natural, triggering a massive controversy. The health ministry of the BJP government asked AIIMS to submit a report, while Congress firefighters jumped into the ring to shield Tharoor from negative publicity.

5) A state is born

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A man holds a map as he celebrates the creation of Telangana state, in Hyderabad. (AFP photo)

Turning the clock back 57 years when Telugu-speaking Telangana region of Hyderabad was merged with Andhra state in November 1956, a new state of Telangana came into being on June 2, capping numerous struggles for statehood. It is for the first time since 2000 -- when three new states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand were carved out of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh respectively during NDA's rule at the Centre -- that a new state was created. Earlier, Parliament had given green light to The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2014 on February 20 in the Winter Session, despite protests by Seemandhra MPs pitching for a united Andhra Pradesh, paving the way for the creation of India's 29th state.

6) Jayalalithaa convicted in DA case

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Supporters of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa cry in Chennai after a Bangalore special court convicted her in a disproportionate assets case. (PTI photo)

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years in jail and slapped with Rs. 100 crore fine after being found guilty of corruption by a special Bangalore court in September. The ruling in the 18-year-old disproportionate assets case dealt a blow to the 66-year-old AIADMK chief, disqualifying her as CM and effectively putting her out of the electoral arena for 10 years.

The court also convicted Jayalalithaa's close aide Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Ilavarasi and her nephew, and the chief minister's disowned foster son Sudhakaran in the case. The accused were found guilty of acquiring Rs. 66.65 crore worth of assets by corrupt means between 1991 and 1996 -- during Jayalalithaa's first tenure as CM. Jayalalithaa, however, was granted bail by the Supreme Court in October.

7) Janata Parivar merger: Faced with an onslaught by the BJP, first it was JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar and his long-time political rival, RJD's Lalu Prasad, to join hands against a common foe. Now, the once-firebrand young Turks of the socialist movement, who fell apart more than two decades ago, are set to re-unite as a family of ageing warriors. There are reports that the JD(U), RJD, HD Deve Gowda's JD(S), and Om Prakash Chautala's INLD will merge as a new party under the leadership of former wrestler and Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav to remain politically relevant.

8) Bizarre claims: India conducted a nuclear test centuries ago; cow urine can cure diabetes and ancient India was adept at genetics and plastic surgery. These and more such incredible achievements datelined ancient India have come from votaries of Hindu culture.

If people with scientific temper are reaching boiling point, in the absence of technology to go back in time to ancient India for verification trips, little noise is being heard from their quarters.

While Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, BJP MP from Haridwar and former Uttarakhand chief minister, said Sage Kanad had conducted a nuclear test lakhs of years ago, Modi equated birth of Mahabharata's Karna to genetic engineering. There's more: Dinanath Batra, convenor of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, claimed stem cell research was invented by an Indian, Dr Ganpat Matapurkar, who was inspired by the Mahabharata.

9) Saradha tremors: The multi-crore Saradha scam sent shock waves across the country this year, becoming a major talking point in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. The shadow of Saradha has been hounding Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her government since it exploded in early 2013, but this year the case took several new twists.

After suspended Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh, party MP Srinjoy Bose and influential state minister Madan Mitra were arrested by the CBI in connection with the case, which has given the BJP much-needed ammo to launch an all-out attack on the ruling party.

In another dramatic chapter in the case, Ghosh allegedly tried to commit suicide by consuming sleeping pills inside his high-security cell in a Kolkata jail. According to Ghosh, he was being made a scapegoat and Mamata Banerjee is the 'biggest beneficiary' of the scam.

10) Rise and fall of Aam Aadmi

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Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal at a rally. (Photo: Agencies)

Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ruled Delhi for 49 days, marking a significant chapter of politics in the national capital. Kejriwal's vow to fight corruption and steps to ensure cheap power and water bills struck a chord with the commoners. But, an AAP minister's raid on a south Delhi locality aimed at cracking down on an alleged drug and prostitution racket triggered unexpected chaos in the city. Following a case against the minister, bigwigs in the state government, including chief minister Kejriwal, took to the streets to protest against Delhi Police, which function under the Centre. The activism on the part of an elected government did not go down well with many. Finally, in another unexpected move, the AAP government resigned on February 14, alleging the Congress and the BJP have joined hands in the 70-member House to stall a key anti-graft legislation.