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Tryst with destiny to India Shining: a history of polls

The 11th Lok Sabha planted the first seeds of a non-Congress and a non-BJP alternative. Read on for more such interesting nuggets from the treasure trove of Indian democracy, as HT captures the six-decade-old journey of general elections in a nutshell.

india Updated: May 25, 2014 19:24 IST
Gaurav Choudhury

The 11th Lok Sabha, which planted the first seeds of a non-Congress and non-BJP alternative, saw three PMs and two governments of different configurations in its two-year period. The 12th Lok Sabha was the shortest, lasting for just 13 months. Read on for more such interesting nuggets from the treasure trove of Indian democracy, as HT captures the six-decade-old journey of general elections in a nutshell.

1st Lok Sabha (1952): Tryst with destiny

Polling period: October 1951, December 1951, February 1952

Four years after Independence, India took a giant leap towards forming a democratic government, resulting in the first Lok Sabha being constituted on April 17, 1952.

The Indian National Congress (INC) came to power with 364 seats in a House of 489. Winning from Allahabad, Jawaharlal Nehru became the first elected prime minister of the country.

A file photo of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, delivering his famous "tryst with destiny" speech on 15 August, 1947 at Parliament House in New Delhi. (AFP photo)

Despite the thumping majority, the INC was not elected without any opposition. Syama Prasad Mookerjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in October 1951. The party that later evolved into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Dalit leader BR Ambedkar revived the Scheduled Castes Federation, which later became the Republican Party. Ram Manohar Lohia and Jai Prakash Narayan formed the Socialist Party.

2nd Lok Sabha (1957): The Gandhis stamp their footprint in Rae Bareilly

Polling period: February 24 to March 14, 1957

The INC returned to power with a comprehensive victory, winning 371 seats in a House of 494. Nehru was re-elected to Lok Sabha, this time from Phulpur.

The elections bore the first footprints of the Nehru-Gandhi family in Uttar Pradesh's Rae Bareilly constituency, from where Indira Gandhi's husband, Feroz Gandhi, defeated Nand Kishore, an independent candidate.

3rd Lok Sabha (1962): Three PMs and hostile neighbours

Polling period: February 19 to February 25, 1962

The third Lok Sabha was an inflection point in the history of India and the Congress party. The country fought two wars (against China in 1962 and against Pakistan in 1965), and saw three full-time prime ministers and an acting PM.

A file photo of Indian soldiers in a makeshift fort facing Chinese troops in the Ladakh region during border clashes between India and China in November 1962. (Getty Images)

Jawaharlal Nehru led the INC to another victory in the 494-member House, but his health started declining soon after. He died in the Capital of a heart attack on May 27, 1964.

Lal Bahadur Shastri took charge as independent India's second prime minister. Credited with coining the famous `Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan' slogan, he led the country to victory over Pakistan in 1965. Shastri passed away days after inking a peace treaty with Pakistan at Tashkent in the former Soviet Union on January 10, 1966.

A file photo of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. (HT photo)

The Congress elected Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi as the PM. In between, veteran Congress leader Gulzari Lal Nanda assumed charge as the acting PM twice for brief periods.

4th Lok Sabha (1967): Split wide open

Polling Period: February 17 to February 21, 1967

The Congress returned to power in 1967 for the fourth straight term, but with a considerably reduced majority — from 361 in 1962 to 283 in 1967. Indira Gandhi, who won her first Lok Sabha elections from Rae Bareilly, was questioned by some for her undisputed leadership.

To quell the rebellion, she appointed Morarji Desai, who had opposed her candidature as PM after Nehru's death, as the deputy PM and finance minister.

But, dissent split the party into two factions: the Congress (Organisation) led by Morarji Desai, and the Congress (Indira) led by Indira Gandhi.

A file photo of Indira Gandhi and her opponent Morarji Desai just after her election as Prime Minister of India, 19 January 1966. (AFP photo)

Also, two major parties in the Left Front came into being. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) was born after a split from the Communist Party of India in 1964.

Indira Gandhi headed a minority government with the CPI(M)'s support and announced mid-term elections in 1971, one-year before of the scheduled time.

5th Lok Sabha (1971): 'Garibi Hatao', a war and an Emergency

Polling period: March 1 to March 10, 1971

Indira Gandhi guided the Congress to win 342 seats in a House of 518 in 1971, riding on the popular "Garibi Hatao" slogan.

Two major events marked the fifth Lok Sabha's tenure — the war against Pakistan in 1971 and the declaration of Emergency.

A file photo of Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora (L) watches as Pakistan's eastern forces commander General AAK Niazi signs the treaty of surrender of the Pakistani army to Indian troops in 1971. (AFP photo)

Bangladesh emerged as a new nation after the war in which Pakistan suffered a defeat.

On the domestic front, the government was confronted with a huge problem.

The Allahabad high court invalidated Indira Gandhi's 1971 election on the grounds of electoral malpractices on June 12, 1975. She declared a state of emergency, suspending civil rights, sending opposition leaders to jail and subjecting the media to censorship. The Emergency lasted till March 1977.

A file photo of prime minister Indira Gandhi adressing a crowd of students at New Delhi on December 1971. (AFP photo)

6th Lok Sabha (1977): Emergency effect

Polling period: March 16 to March 20, 1977

1977 was a watershed year that saw the first non-Congress government. Riding on an anti-Indira wave, the Janata Party combine led by the Bharatiya Lok Dal came to power and Morarji Desai became the prime minister. The Congress won just 154 of the 542 seats.

A file photo of prime minister Morarji Desai working at his Parliament's office in April 1977 in New Delhi. (AFP photo)

The Janata Party, which was formed following the merger of four parties, won 298 seats. Indira Gandhi, who bore the brunt of the Emergency, and her son Sanjay lost the elections.

7th Lok Sabha (1980): Return of the Congress

Polling period: January 3 to January 6, 1980

The first non-Congress government lasted less than three years. Sharp differences among leaders of the coalition led to a split of the Bharatiya Lok Dal in 1979. Morarji Desai resigned after losing a trust vote in Parliament. Charan Singh became the PM in June 1979. But his government too failed to last long, and Charan Singh called for elections in January 1980.

A file photo of former prime minister Charan Singh at the India Gate in New Delhi in August 1980. (HT photo/Virendra Prabhakar)

The dissent worked in favour of the Congress. Indira Gandhi led the party to a landslide victory, winning 353 Lok Sabha seats as the Janata Party alliance managed to get just 31 seats in the 542-member House.

8th Lok Sabha (1984-85): Indira Gandhi's assassination

Polling period: December 24 to December 28, 1984

Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as the PM days after Indira Gandhi's assassination on October 31, 1984. Lok Sabha was dissolved shortly, and elections were held.

A file photo of former prime minister Indira Gandhi wrapped in tricolour at the hospital where she died after having been shot in front of her residence in New Delhi. (AFP photo)

The Congress returned to power, winning 415 seats in a House of 542 on the back of a sympathy wave. The results also marked the party's best performance ever. The eighth Lok Sabha elections announced the arrival of the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh under the leadership of actor-turned politician NT Rama Rao. The TDP won 30 seats in the state.

9th Lok Sabha (1989): Bofors and rise of the Third Front

Polling period: November 22 to November 26, 1989

The elections to constitute the 9th Lok Sabha were affected by the Bofors scandal.

In another blow to the Congress, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, a former minister in Rajiv Gandhi's government, resigned from the party to form the Jan Morcha.

A file photo of prime minister VP Singh who just returned from USSR. (HT photo/Virendra Prabhakar)

Also, the Janata Dal was formed by merging the Jan Morcha, Janata Party, Lok Dal and the Congress (S), paving way for the National Front, a non-Congress pre-poll alliance including regional parties such as the TDP, AGP and the DMK.

The Congress, which won 197 of the 529, could not form the government. VP Singh assumed office as the PM of the National Front government, which had outside support from the BJP and the Left parties.

10th Lok Sabha (1991): Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, Mandal, Mandir and economic liberalisation

Polling period: May 20 to June 15, 1991

The second non-Congress government lasted barely 16 months. The fresh elections saw voters being influenced by two key issues — the Mandal Commission report on job reservation for backward castes and BJP's demand for constructing a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

A file photo of teachers, lawyers demonstrating against Mandal Commission in September 1990. (HT Photo/Arun Jetlie)

A day after the first round of polling, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE militants at a campaign in Tamil Nadu.

The Congress emerged as the single largest party in House with strength of 521 (plus 13 members in Punjab that went to polls in 1992).

PV Narasimha Rao was sworn in as the second Congress PM outside the Nehru-Gandhi family. Rao appointed Manmohan Singh as the finance minister, who ushered in an era of structural reforms that changed course of Indian economy.

A file photo of former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao at his residence in 1993. (HT photo/Rajeev Aggarwal)

11th Lok Sabha (1996): The Third Front, a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative

Polling period: April 27 to May 30, 1996

The polls to form the 11th Lok Sabha planted the first seeds of a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative in the country. A two-year period saw three PMs and two governments of different configurations, but a continuity of economic reforms.

The BJP won 161 seats in the House, which had 543 members (the present figure).

President Shankar Dayal Sharma invited Atal Bihari Vajpayee to form the government. The Vajpayee government lasted 13 days.

A file photo of BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee (L) and LK Advani seated together in New Delhi. (AFP photo)

A United Front government assumed office, as Janata Dal leader Deve Gowda emerged as the choice for the PM post. With outside support from the Congress, the government lasted 18 months. IK Gujral took over as the PM in later part of its tenure.

12th Lok Sabha (1998): BJP's second stint—from 13 days to 13 months

Polling period: February 16 to February 23, 1998

The 12th Lok Sabha has two firsts to its credit. It is the Lok Sabha with the shortest span, and it was dissolved after the government of the day failed to win floor test by a single vote.

If the 11th Lok Sabha was unstable and lasted for only 18 months, the 12th Lok Sabha was the shortest — lasting for just 13 months.

Veteran BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in as the PM of a coalition government. The BJP, with 182 seats, led a conglomeration of regional parties. The Vajpayee government conducted nuclear tests in Pokhran, triggering a series of diplomatic initiatives to minimise the impact of economic sanctions.

It lost a confidence vote in the Lok Sabha following the withdrawal of support by the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK, a coalition partner.

13th Lok Sabha (1999): The rise of NDA

Polling period: September 5 to October 6, 1999

In the 13th Lok Sabha elections, the BJP once again bagged 182 seats. It also put together the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) by uniting strong regional parties such as the DMK in Tamil Nadu, Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in Bihar, and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. Besides, it had outside support from Andhra Pradesh's TDP.

A file photo of the deputy prime minister LK Advani gesturing during his speech at a public rally in Tumkur in Bangalore. (AFP photo)

The government completed a full term, recording five years of uninterrupted non-Congress rule, the longest in the history of the country.

14th Lok Sabha (2004): India Shining versus common man

Polling period: April 20 to May 10, 2004

The 14th Lok Sabha elections were held at a time when the Indian and world economy was on the threshold of a major economic boom. In 2004, for the first time, the economy recorded a growth rate of over 8%.

With the BJP riding high on the feel-good factor and its promotional campaign 'India Shining', many analysts did not give the Congress party too much of chance.

Opinion poll results showed that the NDA would return to power. The Congress' campaign slogan "Congress ke haath, aam aadmi ke saath," however, pipped the BJP's "feel good factor" in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

A file photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi addressing the media after meeting at Rashrapati Bhawan in New Delhi. (HT photo/Ajay Aggarwal)

The Congress emerged as the single largest party with 145 seats, and formed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government with Manmohan Singh as the PM. It had outside support from the Left Parties that won 59 seats.

15th Lok Sabha (2009): Scams galore, rise of the civil society

Polling period: April 16 to May 13, 2009

The Congress-led UPA got a comfortable majority to return to power. Manmohan Singh became the PM for the second term. A series of scams, including the 2G spectrum row, coal block allocation controversy and the Commonwealth Games scam, surfaced in the UPA-II's five-year rule.

Ally DMK parted ways with the Congress in 2013 owing to differences over protecting the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils. The decision to carve out Telangana of Andhra Pradesh triggered a political storm.

The UPA-II's term also saw the rise of a politically active civil society, with intellectuals supporting activist Anna Hazare's campaign for a strong anti-graft bill.

The trend led to the formation of Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party. With the growth rate slowing down and persistent inflation, BJP's PM nominee Narendra Modi took the centre stage, leading the charge against the Congress government.

AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi address rallies during 2014 Lok Sabha elections campiagn. (PTI photo)

16th Lok Sabha (2014): Modi magic, Rahul's rise or AAP upset?

Polling period: April 7 to May 12, 2014

Following the rise of Modi and the AAP, pollsters had predicted a complete rout of the Congress this year.

Both Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had exuded confidence about a victory. But, there was a clean sweep for the saffron party. The BJP’s 282 seats is the first time in 30 years that a single party has gone past the 272-majority mark on its own steam. The BJP-led NDA will have 336 members in the lower house.

Narendra Modi looks on during the oath taking cermony of the new Chief Minister of Gujarat Anandiben Patel at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad. (AFP Photo)