India Politics Top

India Elections: From Gandhi to Globalization – 1

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This two-part series looks at the past 67 years of democracy in India. You read this, and you will have your short summarized capsule about Indian democracy which has gone into its most important elections a couple of days back.

1. The dream to become the largest democracy in the world transformed into reality in 1951-52, when India had the first General elections. Election Commission of India was formed and Sukumar Sen was given this mammoth exercise of planning & conducting the first general elections. The elections were held between 25 October 1951 and 21 February 1952 and Indian National Congress (INC) stormed into power, winning 364 of the 489 seats and 45% of the total votes polled, over four times as many as the second-largest party. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the country. Voter turnout was 45.7%.

2. During the second General elections held in 1957, Indian National Congress was able to replicate its success story and managed to win 371 seats from a total of 490 candidates in the election fray. However, this year also saw the first non-Congress Govt in any state of India. In 1957, EMS Namboodiripad led the Communists to victory in the first election for the state government, making him the first communist leader in India to head a popularly elected government.

3. In the third General elections held in 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru led the Congress to a resounding victory winning 361 of the 494 constituencies. 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.

Nehru died in 1964 and 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. 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.

4. The Congress again returned to power in 1967, but with a considerably reduced majority winning only 283 seats. Indira Gandhi won her first Lok Sabha elections from Rae Bareilly, was questioned by some for her undisputed leadership by senior Congress leader Morarji Desai. To quell the rebellion, she appointed Morarji Desai as the deputy PM and finance minister. The internal strife continued to worsen until she was expelled from the party in November 1969, an action that split the party into two factions: the Congress (O) led by Desai, and the Congress (R) led by Gandhi. She continued to head a minority government with support from the CPI until she called an early election in 1971.

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.

5. In the fifth General elections held in 1971, the 27 Indian states and union territories were represented by 518 constituencies, each with a single seat. Under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, the Congress led a campaign which focused on reducing poverty and won a landslide victory.

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