Elections of 1977 – The new beginning


In last video, we discussed why emergency
was removed. In January 1977, Indira Gandhi suddenly announced
fresh elections surprising everyone. In this video, we will discuss the following
election held in March of 1977. Let us first discuss the political stage before
the election. On 18th January, as Mrs Gandhi spoke over
the radio, her opponents were being released from jails across the country. The next day, 19th January, the leaders of
four parties met at the residence of Morarji Desai in New Delhi. These parties were the Jana Sangh, the Bharatiya
Lok Dal, a party principally of farmers, led by the veteran Charan Singh, the Socialist
Party and Morarji’s own Congress (O). The following day Desai told the press that
they had decided to fight the elections under a common symbol and a common name. On the 23rd, the ‘Janata Party’ was formally
launched at a news conference in the presence of Jayaprakash Narayan. Ten days after the formation of the Janata
Party, Jagjivan Ram announced that he was leaving the Union government. Known universally as ‘Babuji’, Ram was
a lifelong Congressman, a prominent minister in Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s Cabinets
and – most crucially – the acknowledged leader of the Scheduled Castes. It was Ram who had moved the resolution in
the Lok Sabha endorsing the emergency. His resignation came as a shock to the Congress,
and as a harbinger of things to come. For Babuji was renowned for his political
acumen; that he chose to leave the Congress was widely taken as a sign that this ship
was sinking. In last video, we discussed why emergency
was removed. In January 1977, Indira Gandhi suddenly announced fresh elections surprising
everyone. In this video, we will discuss the following election held in March of 1977. Let us first discuss the political stage before
the election. On 18th January, as Mrs Gandhi spoke over
the radio, her opponents were being released from jails across the country. The next day,
19th January, the leaders of four parties met at the residence of Morarji Desai in New
Delhi. These parties were the Jana Sangh, the Bharatiya Lok Dal, a party principally
of farmers, led by the veteran Charan Singh, the Socialist Party and Morarji’s own Congress
(O). The following day Desai told the press that they had decided to fight the elections
under a common symbol and a common name. On the 23rd, the ‘Janata Party’ was formally
launched at a news conference in the presence of Jayaprakash Narayan.
Ten days after the formation of the Janata Party, Jagjivan Ram announced that he was
leaving the Union government. Known universally as ‘Babuji’, Ram was a lifelong Congressman,
a prominent minister in Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s Cabinets and – most crucially
– the acknowledged leader of the Scheduled Castes. It was Ram who had moved the resolution
in the Lok Sabha endorsing the emergency. His resignation came as a shock to the Congress,
and as a harbinger of things to come. For Babuji was renowned for his political acumen;
that he chose to leave the Congress was widely taken as a sign that this ship was sinking.
In resigning from his old party Jagjivan Ram along with H. N. Bahuguna and Nandini Satpathy
formed a new party: the Congress for Democracy. The CFD, he said, would collaborate with the
Janata Party regarding candidates in order to avoid the Congress gaining from a split
opposition vote. Congress forged a coalition with the CPI and
AIADMK. Coalition with CPI was natural, as Indira Gandhi was implementing radical program
during her terms. Coalition with AIADMK might be due to the fact that DMK had forged the
common front with the Janata Party. The opposition campaign kicked off with a
mass rally at New Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds on Sunday 6 March. In her interview, Indira
Gandhi said, “the Janata men are only united against me, but not on any positive
programme”. In his interview, JP said, “They should vote without fear, and remember that
if you vote for the Opposition you will vote for Freedom. If you vote for the Congress
you will vote for Dictatorship.” The chief protagonists of the conflicts of 1973–5
were also the chief campaigners in the elections of 1977. Despite his age and indifferent health,
JP hit the road. Between 21 February and 5 March he spoke at Patna, Calcutta, Bombay,
Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Indore, Poona and Ratlam – pausing only to spend time with his dialysis
machine. Everywhere, he warned the audience that ‘this is the last free election if
the Congress is voted back to power. Nineteen months of tyranny shall become nineteen years
of terror’. Mrs Gandhi denied that her party was the monopoly of one family. In any case,
‘few families in the world’ had a comparable record of service and sacrifice. She admitted
that there had been some excesses during the emergency, yet defended the regime as necessary
at the time. ‘We don’t care who criticises us’, she insisted. ‘We have to proceed
on the right path guided by sound policies, programmes and principles’.
At least in northern India, the elections were inevitably seen as a referendum on emergency
period policies and programmes; and on one programme in particular, that of compulsory
sterilization. Particularly active in the election campaign were school teachers and
lower officials, those who had their promotions stopped or were punitively transferred for
not having met the ‘quotas’ assigned them by the administration.
With this background, 6th general election was held during 16th March to 19th March 1977.
Counting started on 20th March and the historical results were out by that night. Let us discuss the result of this election.
Janata Party with its coalition won clear majority. They won 330 out of 542 seats. The
CFD merged with the Janata Party immediately after the elections. Congress trailed far
behind with only 154 seats. The kingpins of the Congress Party tumbled
one after another. In Rae Bareilli, Indira Gandhi had lost to her old foe and litigant
Raj Narain. In the adjoining constituency of Amethi, Sanjay Gandhi had been defeated
by an obscure student leader. Surprisingly in the South, where the Emergency
had been less vigorous, and the pro-poor measures of the Twenty -Point Programme better implemented,
Congress improved its performance. Congress won 92 seats in place of 70 in 1971. Janata
won only 6 seats in the four southern states. The elections had revealed a manifest regional
divide, and also a divide by caste and religious affiliation. Two groups in particular, long
considered to be loyal ‘vote banks’ of the ruling party, had this time deserted the
Congress. One was the Scheduled Castes, many of whom were swayed into voting for Janata
by the defection of Jagjivan Ram. The other was the Muslims, who had suffered grievously
at the hands of Sanjay’s pet programmes. When elections were called, the influential
Imam of Delhi’s greatest mosque, the Jama Masjid, asked Muslims to vote against the
Congress. The results of the elections delighted many,
angered some and surprised all. In a letter to a friend Mrs Gandhi attributed her defeat
to malign forces. ‘People have always thought that I was imagining things and overreacting’,
she wrote, ‘but there has been a deep conspiracy and it was bound to overtake us’. One editor
who had been among her most steadfast supporters took the long and more hopeful view. Like
Winston Churchill, Indira Gandhi had led her nation to victory in war; like him, she had
been cheered for it, and like him she had been thrown out of power by an ungrateful
people. Among the delighted, Sober commentators spoke
of a ‘Janata wave’; less sober ones, talked of a ‘revolution’. For the first time
in the nation’s thirty-year history, a party other than the Congress would govern at the
centre. No Indian alive in 1977 knew what it was like not to have the Congress as the
country’s dominant and ruling political party. Few knew what it was like not to have
Nehru or Indira Gandhi as its dominant and ruling political figure. You can relate this
election to the recent general election of 2014 in which Modi wave dominated and swept
out Congress. Following the election, Janata Party faced
the crisis. The crisis of selecting the Prime Minister to lead the government.
In our next video, we will discuss this crisis before Janata party for electing the prime
minister. Thank you for watching this video. Please like, share and comment, because discussion
is solution. For more discussions, please subscribe our channel.

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