The country got its debut Lok Sabha in April 1952, after the first General Elections were successfully concluded. The Indian National Congress (INC) stormed into power in the first Lok Sabha elections with 245 seats in its kitty. With this, India's grand old party managed to secure 45 per cent of the total votes polled. An electoral participation of 44.87 per cent was reported from across India. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru became the first elected Prime Minister of the country, his party clearly beating rivals by winning 75.99% (47,665,951) of the votes cast. The Lok Sabha, which was constituted on April 17, 1952, lasted its full term till April 4, 1957.
1st Lok Sabha 1952
Before Independent India went to the polls, two former cabinet colleagues of Nehru established separate political parties to challenge the INC's supremacy. While Shyama Prasad Mookerjee went on to found the Jana Sangh in October 1951, Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar revived the Scheduled Castes Federation (which was later named the Republican Party). Other parties which started coming to the forefront included the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Parishad, whose prime mover was Acharya Kripalani; the Socialist Party which had Ram Manohar Lohia and Jay Prakash Narayan's leadership to boast of and the Communist Party of India. However, these smaller parties knew that they really didn't stand a chance to against the Congress.
The first general elections, which were conducted for 489 constituencies, represented 26 Indian states. At that time, there were a few two-seat and even a three-seat constituency. The multi-seat constituencies were discontinued in the 1960s.
The Speaker of the first Lok Sabha was Shri G.V. Mavalankar. The first Lok Sabha also witnessed 677 sittings (3,784 hours), the highest recorded count of the number of sittings. Lok Sabha lasted its full term from April 17, 1952 to April 4, 1957.
The Indian National Congress managed to replicate its 1952 success story in the second Lok Sabha elections held in 1957. The INC managed to win 296 seats from a total of 490 candidates who were in the political fray. The party also secured 47.78 per cent majority winning a total of 57,579,589 votes. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru came back to power with a comfortable majority. On May 11, 1957, M. Ananthasayanam Iyengar was unanimously elected the Speaker of the new Lok Sabha. His name was proposed by Prime Minister Nehru and seconded by Mr. Satyanarayan Sinha.
2nd Lok Sabha 1957
These elections also saw the rise of Congress member, Feroz Gandhi (who went on to marry PM Nehru's daughter Indira), who defeated his nearest rival, Nand Kishore by a margin of over 29,000 votes to win the general seat in the Rae Bareilly constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
Interestingly, in the 1957 polls not a single woman candidate was in the fray. Independents got 19 per cent of the vote in 1957. The 2nd Lok Sabha completed its full term on March 31, 1962
Jawaharlal Nehru had led the Congress to a resounding victory in the 1957 elections with a majority win. During his tenure the Congress leader had also envisaged a new look for the country in the areas of development and growth. Thus came into effect the scheme of Five Year Plan which was aimed at improving the living standards of the people by making judicious use of natural resources. The various sectors in which Nehru wanted the country to leap forward included science and technology, industrial sector, communications. The futuristic PM of India had plans of seeing steel mills and dams as the temples of modern India.
3rd Lok Sabha 1962
The third Lok Sabha was formed in April 1962.
At the time relations with Pakistan remained chilling. 'Friendly' ties with China also proved to be something of a misnomer with the Border War breaking out in October 1962. The key issue behind the Indo-Sino conflict of 1962 is attributed to the 1956-57 construction of a Chinese military highway in the disputed territory of Aksai China just west of Tibet. The war which began with skirmishes in the summer of 1962 assumed significant proportions in October and November, 1962, along three widely separated fronts. A strong and well-prepared Chinese army outshone the Indian army.
Widely criticised for his government's insufficient attention to defence, Nehru was forced to sack the then defence minister Krishna Menon and accept U.S. military aid. Nehru's health began declining steadily, and he was forced to spend months recuperating in Kashmir through 1963. Upon his return from Kashmir in May 1964, Nehru suffered a stroke and later a heart attack and died on May 27, 1964. China's invasion of India's borders in 1962 and the state of affairs vis-a-vis Pakistan had left Nehru quit embittered, say experts.
Veteran Congress leader Gulzarilal Nanda succeeded Nehru at his death for a period of two weeks. He served as the acting Prime Minister until the Congress had elected a new leader, Lal Bahadur Shastri. Shastri was an unlikely choice for PM who, perhaps unexpectedly, led the country to something of a victory over Pakistan in 1965. Shastri and the humbled Pakistani President, Muhammad Ayub Khan, signed a peace treaty at Tashkent in the former Soviet Union on January 10, 1966. However, Shastri could barely live to see the spoils of his win.
Following the vacuum created by Shastri's death, the Congress was once again found itself devoid of a leader. Nanda was back to being the acting Prime Minister, again for a period of less than a month, before being succeeded by Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter. Indira had served as Information and Broadcasting Minister in Shastri's cabinet. The then Congress President K Kamraj had a major role to play in elevating Indira to the post of Prime Minsitership in 1966. Despite stiff opposition from veteran Congress leader Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister on January 24, 1966. For the Congress it was not really the best of times. The party was going through internal crisis and the country itself was recovering from two closely fought wars. The economy was hurting, general sentiment was low. Other issues which rocked the Lok Sabha included the Mizo tribal uprisings, famine, labour unrest and misery among the poor in the wake of rupee devaluation. There was also a lot of agitation in the Punjab for linguistic and religious separatism.
The country had its fourth outing at the hustings since Independence in April 1967. For the Congress which till now had never won less than 73 per cent of the seats in Parliament, it was more bad news ahead.
4th Lok Sabha 1967
Congress' internal crisis stared at its face in the results of the 1967 elections. For the first time, it lost nearly 60 seats in the Lower House, managing to win 297 seats. Until 1967, the grand old party had also never won less than 60 per cent of all seats in Assembly elections. It also suffered a major setback as non-Congress ministries were established in Bihar, Kerala, Orissa, Madras, the Punjab and West Bengal. Among all this, Indira Gandhi, elected to the Lok Sabha from Rai Bareili constituency, was sworn in as the Prime Minister on March 13. In order to keep dissident voices at bay, she appointed Morarji Desai, who had opposed her candidature as PM after Nehru's death, as Deputy Prime Minister of India and Finance Minister of India.
The Congress' dismal electoral performance forced her to become assertive and opt for a series of choices that put her against the Congress Party high command. Differences within the party kept building. The Congress expelled her for "indiscipline" on November 12, 1969, an action that split the party into two factions: the Congress (O)-for Organisation-led by Morarji Desai, and the Congress (I)--for Indira-led by Indira Gandhi. Indira continued to head a minority government with support from the CPI(M) till December 1970. Not wanting to head a minority government any longer, she called for a mid-term election to the Lok Sabha a full one year ahead of schedule.
The country was set for the fifth general elections.
Indira Gandhi steered the Congress to a landslide victory in 1971.Campaigning on the slogan of "garibi hatao" (eliminate poverty), she returned in Parliament with 352 seats, a marked improvement from the party's poor show of 283 in the previous polls.
5th Lok Sabha 1971
For Indira Gandhi, the bar had been raised. And she didn't disappoint. She didn't flinch when it came to taking tough decisions during the India-Pakistan war in 1971 that resulted in the liberation of Bangladesh. India's victory in December 1971 was hailed by all Indians as it came in the face of diplomatic opposition from both China and the United States. There was hardly any international support from almost every other nation except the erstwhile Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries.
For Indira and the Congress, there were other problems in store. Enormous economic cost of the Indo-Pak war, increase in world oil prices and, drop in industrial output added to the economic hardships.
On June 12, 1975, the Allahabad High Court invalidated her 1971 election on the grounds of electoral malpractices. Instead of resigning, Indira Gandhi declared an Emergency in the country and jailed the entire Opposition.
The Emergency lasted till March 1977 and in the General Elections held in 1977, she was routed by a coalition of parties called Janta Morcha. This was the first time that the Congress had been dealt a bloody blow.
The state of Emergency declared by the Congress government was the core issue in the 1977 elections. Civil liberties were suspended during the national emergency from 25 June 1975 to 21 March 1977 and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi assumed vast powers.
6th Lok Sabha 1977
Gandhi had become extremely unpopular for her decision and paid for it during the elections. Gandhi, on January 23, called fresh elections for March and released all political prisoners. Four Opposition parties, the Organisation Congress, the Jan Sangh, the Bharatiya Lok Dal and the Socialist Party, decided to fight the elections as a single party, called the Janata Party.
The Janata Party reminded voters of excesses and human rights violations during the Emergency, like compulsory sterilisation and imprisonment of political leaders. The Janata campaign said the elections would decide whether India would have "democracy or dictatorship." The Congress looked jittery: Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Babu Jagjivan Ram quit the party, and he was one among many.
The Congress tried to woo voters by speaking about the need for a strong government but the tide was against it.
The Congress lost the elections for the first time in independent India and Janata Party leader Morarji Desai, who had been released from prison two months before the elections, won 298 seats. Desai became India's first non-Congress Prime Minister on March 24.
The Congress lost nearly 200 seats. Indira Gandhi, who had been in government since 1966, and her son Sanjay both lost elections.
The Janata Party came into power riding the public anger against the Congress and the Emergency but its position was weak. The party held 270 seats in the Lok Sabha and it never quite had a firm grip on power.
7th Lok Sabha 1980
Bharatiya Lok Dal leader Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram, who had quit the Congress, were members of the Janata alliance but they were at loggerheads with Prime Minister Morarji Desai.
The tribunals the government had set up to investigate human rights abuses during the Emergency appeared vindictive and a witch-hunt against Congress leader Indira Gandhi, who lost no opportunity of portraying herself as a harassed woman.
The Janata Party, an amalgam of socialists and Hindu nationalists, split in 1979 when Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) leaders A B Vajpayee and L K Advani quit and the BJS withdrew support to the government.
Desai lost a trust vote in Parliament and resigned. Charan Singh, who had retained some partners of the Janata alliance, was sworn in as Prime Minister in June 1979.
Congress promised to support Singh in Parliament but later backed out. He called for elections in January 1980 and is the only Prime Minister not to have faced Parliament. The fight between Janata Party leaders and the political instability in the country worked in favour of the Congress (I), which reminded voters of the strong government of Indira Gandhi.
The Congress won 351 Lok Sabha seats and the Janata Party, or what remained of the alliance, won 32 seats.
The Janata split and split over the years but it had recorded an important landmark in the country political history: it was a coalition and proved that the Congress could be defeated.
Prime Minister Indira's Gandhi assassination on October 31, 1984, created a sympathy vote for the Congress. The Lok Sabha was dissolved after Indira's death and Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as interim Prime Minister.
8th Lok Sabha 1984-85
Elections were announced for November 1984 and during the campaigning Rajiv reminded people of his family's contribution and portrayed himself as a reformer.
The Congress won a landslide victory. It won 403 Lok Sabha seats and more than 50 per cent of the popular vote, the party's best performance ever.
In many ways the 9th Lok Sabha Elections were a watershed in Indian electoral politics. The elections changed the way politicians would approach the voters, with caste and religion not far from the average Indian voter at any point in time, becoming the pivot. In the previous General Election held after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984-85, the Congress under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi had secured a landslide win with over 400 seats in the Lok Sabha.
9th Lok Sabha 1989
However, the 1989 General Elections were fought with the young Rajiv cornered with numerous crises - both internal and external - and the Congress government losing credibility and popularity.
The Bofors scandal, rising terrorism in Punjab, the civil war between LTTE and Sri Lankan government were just some of the problems that stared at Rajiv's government. Rajiv's biggest critic was Vishwanath Pratap Singh, who had held the portfolios of the finance ministry and the defence ministry in the government. During Singh's term as defence minister it was rumoured that he possessed damaging information about the Bofors defence deal that could ruin Rajiv's reputation.
But Singh was soon sacked from the Cabinet and he then resigned from his memberships in the Congress and the Lok Sabha. He formed the Jan Morcha with Arun Nehru and Arif Mohammad Khan and re-entered the Lok Sabha from Allahabad.
On October 11, 1988, the Janata Dal was formed by merger of Jan Morcha, Janata Party, Lok Dal and Congress (S), in order to bring together all the parties opposed to the Rajiv Gandhi government. Soon, many regional parties rallied around the Janata Dal including the DMK, TDP, and AGP and formed the National Front. The five-party National Front jumped into the electoral fray in 1989 after joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the two communist parties - the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Communist Party of India (CPI).
The elections were held in two phases on November 22 and November 26, 1989 for 525 seats in the Lok Sabha. The National Front managed to secure a simple majority in the Lok Sabha and formed the government with the outside support of the Left Front and the BJP. Janata Dal, National Front's largest constituent, won 143 seats with CPI-M and CPI securing 33 and 12 respectively. Independents and other smaller parties managed to win 59 seats.
However, the Congress was still the single largest party in the Lok Sabha with 197 MPs. The BJP was the biggest gainer in the elections increasing its tally to 85 MPs from just two in the 1984 elections. Singh became the 10th Prime Minister of India with Devi Lal as the Deputy Prime minister. He held office from December 2, 1989, to November 10, 1990. After BJP leader L K Advani started the Rath Yatra on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue and was arrested in Bihar by state chief minister Lalu Yadav, the party withdrew support to the VP Singh government. Singh resigned after losing the trust vote.
Chandra Shekhar broke away from the Janata Dal with 64 MPs and formed the Samajwadi Janata Party. He got outside support from the Congress and became the 11th Prime Minister of India. He finally resigned on March 6, 1991, after the Congress alleged that the government was spying on Rajiv Gandhi.
The 10th Lok Sabha Elections were a mid-term one as the previous Lok Sabha had been dissolved just 16 months after government formation. The elections were held in a polarised environment and are also referred to as the 'Mandal-Mandir' elections after the two most important poll issues, the Mandal Commission fallout and the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue.
10th Lok Sabha 1991
While the Mandal Commission report implemented by the VP Singh government gave 27 per cent reservation to the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in government jobs and led to widespread violence and protests across the country by the forward castes, Mandir represented the row over the disputed Babri Masjid structure at Ayodhya which the Bharatiya Janata Party was using as its major poll plank.
The Mandir issue had led to riots in many party of the country and the electorate was polarised on caste and religious lines. With the national Front in disarray, the Congress seemed to be on the comeback trail.
The elections were held in three phases May 20, June 12 and June 15, 1991. It was a three-cornered fight between the Congress, the BJP and the National Front-Janta Dal (S)-Left Front coalition.
A day after the first round of polling took place on May 20, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam while campaigning at Sriperembudur. The remaining election days were postponed until mid-June and voting finally took place on June 12 and June 15. Voting was the lowest ever in parliamentary elections with just 53 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise.
The results threw a Hung Parliament with the Congress emerging as the largest party with 232 seats, while the BJP was second with 120 seats. Janata Dal came a distant third with just 59 seats.
On June 21, PV Narasimha Rao of the Congress was sworn in as the Prime Minister. Rao was the only second Congress PM from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family. The first non-Nehru-Gandhi family PM from Congress was Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Elections for 11th Lok Sabha resulted in a hung Parliament and two years of political instability during which the country would have three Prime Ministers.
11th Lok Sabha 1996
Prime Minister P V Narasimha's Rao Congress (I) government had implemented a series of reforms which opened up the country's economy to foreign investors. Rao's supporter credited him for saving the country's economy and energizing its foreign policy but his government was weak and unsure before elections in April-May.
In May 1995, senior leaders Arjun Singh and Narayan Dutt Tiwari quit the Congress and formed their own party. The Harshad Mehta scandal, the Vohra report on criminalisation of politics, the Jain hawala scandal and the 'Tandoor murder' case had damaged the Rao government's credibility.
The BJP and its allies and the United Front, a coalition comprising the Left Front and the Janata Dal, were the Congress' main rivals in elections.
During the three-week campaign, Rao wooed voters with the economic reforms he had implemented and the BJP with Hindutva and national security.
Voters didn't seem impressed with either party. The BJP won 161 seats and the Congress 140-the halfway-mark in Parliament was 271.
The President invited BJP leader A B Vajpayee to form the government, as he was the chief of the single largest party in Parliament.
Vajpayee took over as Prime Minister on May 16 and tried to get support from regional parties in Parliament. He failed and resigned 13 days later.
Janata Dal leader Deve Gowda formed a United Front coalition government on June 1. His government lasted 18 months.
I K Gujral, Gowda's Foreign Minister, took over as Prime Minister in April 1997 after the Congress agreed to support a new United Front government from the outside. But Gujral was a stopgap arrangement. The country would go to elections again in 1998.
The 11th Lok Sabha had a short life, lasting barely one-and-a-half years. The minority Inder Kumar Gujral government, the second by the United Front in 18 months since the May 1996 general elections, collapsed on November 28, 1997 when the Congress, headed by Sitaram Kesri, withdrew support over controversy surrounding involvement in the 1991 assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
12th Lok Sabha 1998
Fresh elections were announced
The 12th Lok Sabha was constituted on March 10, 1998, and a coalition led by veteran BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in nine days later. The 12th Lok Sabha had a life-span of 413 days, the shortest to date.
The dissolution came in the absence of a viable alternative after the 13-month-old Bharatiya Janata Party-led government was ousted by one vote on April 17. This was the fifth time the Lok Sabha was dissolved before completing its full tenure.
Elections were held for all the seats of the Lok Sabha following the premature dissolution of the Lok Sabha on December 4, 1997. General elections had previously been held in April/May 1996.
Post-poll alliance strategy gave the BJP-led alliance a working majority of some 265 seats. In this context, on March 15, Vajpayee was invited by President Narayanan to form the next Government. On March 19, Vajpayee took the oath as Prime Minister.
On April 17, 1999, Vajpayee lost a confidence vote in the Lok Sabha and consequently tendered the resignation of his coalition government. He cited a lack of cohesion in his 24-party National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as the reason. The BJP fell short of a single vote due to the withdrawal of one of their coalition partners, the AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa.
13th Lok Sabha 1999
Jayalalithaa had consistently threatened to withdraw support from the ruling coalition if certain demands were not met, in particular the sacking of the Tamil Nadu government, the control of which she had lost three years prior. The BJP accused Jayalalithaa of making the demands in order to avoid standing trial for a series of corruption charges, and no agreement between the parties could be reached, leading to the government's defeat.
The main Opposition party, the Congress, could not muster enough support to form a majority government with regional and Left-wing groups. On April 26, the then President of India, late K R Narayanan, dissolved the Lok Sabha and called for early elections. The BJP continued to rule as an interim administration until the polling, the dates of which were announced on May 4, by the Election Commission.
As General Elections had previously been held in 1996 and 1998, those of 1999 were the third in 40 months. Their dates were spread over five weeks to allow for the deployment of security forces around the country's 31 states and Union Territories to stem electoral fraud and violence. Altogether 45 parties (six national, the rest regional) contested the 543 Lok Sabha seats.
During the lengthy election campaign, the BJP and the Congress generally agreed on economic and foreign policy issues, including the handling of the Kashmir border crisis with Pakistan. Their rivalry only boiled down into a personal confrontation between Vajpayee and the Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
The entry of Sonia Gandhi, a relative newcomer having been elected to the party presidency in 1998, was challenged by then Maharashtra Congress leader, Sharad Pawar, on the grounds of her Italian birth. This led to a crisis within the Congress and the BJP effectively used this as an electoral issue.
Another issue running in the BJP's favour was the generally positive view of Vajpayee's handling of the Kargil War, which had ended a few months prior to the polls and had affirmed and strengthened the Indian position in Kashmir. Also, in the previous two years, India had posted strong economic growth on the back of economic liberalisation and financial reforms, as well as a low rate of inflation and higher rate of industrial expansion.
The 1991, 1996, and 1998 elections saw a period of consistent growth for the BJP and its allies, based primarily on political expansions in terms of cultivating stronger and broader alliances with other previously-unaffiliated parties; and regional expansion which had seen the NDA become competitive and even the largest vote takers in previously Congress-dominated areas such as Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. These final factors were to prove decisive in the election outcome of 1999.
The outcome which began on October 6 gave the NDA 298 seats, 136 to the Congress and its allies. Vajpayee was sworn in as Prime Minister on October 13.
The BJP-led NDA government, headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee completed five years of its rule in 2004 and elections followed in four phases between April 20 and May 10, 2004.
14th Lok Sabha 2004
Most analysts believed the NDA, riding high on the feel-good factor and its promotional campaign 'India Shining', would beat anti-incumbency and win clear majority. The economy had shown steady growth during the BJP rule and the disinvestment of PSUs had been on track. The Foreign Exchange Reserves of India stood at more than $100 billion (the seventh largest in the world and a record for India). The service sector had also generated a lot of jobs.
These elections, compared to all the other Lok Sabha elections of the 1990s, saw more of a head-to-head battle between personalities (Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi) as there was no viable Third Front alternative. The fight was between the BJP and its allies on the one hand and the Congress and its allies on the other. However, regional differences emerged on the national scene.
The BJP fought the elections as part of the NDA, although some of its seat-sharing agreements were made with strong regional parties outside of the NDA such as the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu.
Ahead of the elections there were attempts to form a Congress-led national level joint opposition front. In the end, an agreement could not be reached, but on regional level alliances between Congress and regional parties were made in several states. This was the first time that Congress contested with that type of alliances in a parliamentary election.
The left parties, most notably the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India, contested on their own in their strongholds West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, confronting both Congress and NDA forces. In several other states, such as Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, they took part in seat sharings with Congress. In Tamil Nadu they were part of the DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance.
Two parties refused to go along with either Congress or BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party. Both are based in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state of India.
Though pre-poll predictions were for an overwhelming majority for the BJP, the exit polls (immediately after the elections and before the counting began) predicted a hung parliament. However, even the exit polls could only indicate the general trend and nowhere close to the final figures. There is also the general perception that as soon as the BJP started realising that events might not proceed entirely in its favour, it changed the focus of its campaign from India Shining to issues of stability. The Congress, who was regarded as "old-fashioned" by the ruling BJP, was largely backed by poor, rural, lower-caste and minority voters that did not participate in the economic boom of previous years that created a large wealthy middle class and thus achieved its overwhelming victory.
The reverses in the pre-poll predictions are ascribed to various reasons depending on the point of view. People were more concerned about issues of their immediate environment such as water scarcity, drought, etc., than national issues and the anti-incumbency factor was at work for the BJP allies.
On May 13, the BJP conceded defeat and the Congress was able to put together a comfortable majority of more than 335 members out of 543 (including external support from BSP, SP, MDMK and the Left front) with the help of its allies and under the direction of Sonia Gandhi. This post-poll alliance was called the United Progressive Alliance.
However, Sonia Gandhi surprised almost all observers by declining to become the new prime minister. Instead, she asked former finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh to take up the mantle. Dr Singh had previously served under Congress prime minister Narasimha Rao in the early-1990s, where he was seen as one of the architects of India's first economic liberalisation plan that staved off an impending national monetary crisis.
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