Parties and The Party Systems in India Class 12 | Political Science |


Parties and The Party Systems in India Class 12 | Political Science |

Congress System


Indian National Congress had been at the forefront of the national movement which brought freedom to the country.
• The Social base of the Congress was very wide, it had presence throughout India from Kashmir to Kerala and from Gujarat to Guwahati.
• It converted itself into a ‘Party of Consensus’ dominating the political landscape in the first three general elections.
• The Congress was able to form government at both Centre and the State. Its dominance in the country’s political system was unchallenged.
• This ‘One party Dominance’ was characterized by Rajni Kothari as ‘The Congress System’.
Although there were factions and groups within the Congress Party, because of  Nehru’s commanding personality they did not come out in the open.
• Some decline in the Congress popularity, however , became evident in early 1960’s.

Challenge of Succession after Nehru

1. Political Vacuum – Jawaharlal Nehru was the beloved leader of his people and remained the key architect of free India. With his death in May 1964, the Nehru era came to an end. The main question after his death was who would come after Nehru, who will succeed Nehru.
2. Survival of Parliamentary Democracy – Nehru was committed to the ideal of Parliamentary Democracy. In the light of prevailing poverty and population growth, the second important question was that of maintaining democracy and political unity.
The 1960’s were described as the ‘Dangerous Decade’ because of all these above problems along with rampant poverty, population growth, caste based and regional divisions there were a lot of problems. They presented a challenge to our democratically elected government.

Lal Bahadur Shastri

K. Kamraj was the President of the Congress Party at the time of death of Nehru. He was one of the Syndicate and managed party’s affairs.
• The party decided to have a leader through ‘Consensus’, rather than means of open voting. It also authorized Kamraj to hold consultations with members of the Congress Working Committee, the Congress MP’s and Congress Chief Ministers to find out consensus of opinion in this regard.
• He announced that there was a consensus about Lal Bhahadur Shastri as he was a very non-controversial man.
• He was a simple man and is very committed to ideals and principles in his life and was a devoted follower of Mahatama Gandhi. When a railway accident happened during his reign as the Railway Minister, he had the guts to resign from the post.
• He was sworn in on 9 June, 1964 and he was Prime Minister till 1966.
• Lal Bhahadur Shastri surprised many by the strength he showed on two important fronts- economic ( shortage of food ) and political (attacks on Indian territory)
• In 1965, some 250 tons of HYV seeds were imported for seed multiplication.
• The attack of Pakistan on Indian territory in September 1965 made Shastri to take difficult actions. He ordered the armed forces to make an attack on the Punjab border and lay siege of Lahore.
He gave the nation a slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ which wanted people to remember that they had overcome the food problem and the challenge to national security.
• The UN Security Council intervened to end the war. On 22 September 1965, the hostilities were called off.
• Lal Bahadur and Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan met at Tashkent in January 1966 and the two reached an agreement to restore the status quo. The Agreement was signed on the afternoon of 10 January 1966.
• That very night Lal Bahadur Shastri died in his sleep of a heart attack.

The New Prime Minister – Indira Gandhi

Gulzarilal Nanda was the acting Prime Minister from 11 January to 24 January 1966.
• After Shastri’s unexpected death the main contestants for the post of PM in the field were Morarji Desai and Indira Gandhi.
Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Nehru and was elected to the Congress Working Committee in 1955. She became the President of the party in 1959 and served as the Minister of Information and Broadcast in Shastri’s cabinet. She has had the widest possible exposure to many national and international scenes and had met many of the great international and national figures.
Morarji Desai had earlier been the Chief Minister of the State of Bombay and had also served as Minister in Nehru’s Cabinet
The syndicate headed by the Party President Kamaraj decided to support Indira Gandhi, who they thought would not carry much political weight.
• When the Congress Parliamentary Party voted to choose for the Prime Minister through the secret ballot, some 2-3rds MP’s voted in favour of Indira Gandhi.
• Despite frenetic politicking, the transition of power was peaceful. That democracy had taken root in India was amply demonstrated over the past few years.
• The new Prime Minister was faced with an economy affected adversely by wars against Pakistan and successive monsoon failures.
• And the next General Elections were approaching soon.

Fourth General Elections of 1967

In 1967, the Congress was far from being dominant party that it was at the time of the first general elections.

Context of Elections
• Jawaharlal Nehru was no more and Congress party had to face the first General Election without him for the first time.
• Death of Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi’s leadership was yet to be firmly established.
• This election the Congress had to fight in the backdrop of many adverse conditions
The Indo-Pak War of 1965 which also meant increase in the spending on Military.
 Two successive years of drought
 The shortage of food
 Serious drop in agricultural and industrial production.
 Anti-Hindi agitation
 Insurgency in North-East
 High rate of inflation
 And high rate of unemployment.
Erosion of financial resources delayed the finalization of the fourth Five Year Plan.
• Indira Gandhi devalued the rupee in order to encourage exports and discourage imports.
• The Movements, strikes and struggles – opposition parties were fully aware of the weaknesses of the ruling party and were bent upon exploiting them for electoral purposes.
• The Anti-Hindi protests in Tamil Nadu turned into a state-wide agitation. Mizo National Front under Laldenga’s leadership launched a separatist movement in 1966.
• In West Bengal the communists first encouraged the Naxalites and later fought them, who eventually formed a new party. It was a radical movement that had its roots in an unjust agrarian structure of northern Bengal.


The main drawback of the Non-Congress Opposition in India was that it had been divided and weak.
• The developments in the country and within the Congress Party made the opposition more united than before. The great Socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia had been an outspoken critic of Nehru’s economic and foreign policies .
• Dr. Lohia in the name of ‘Non-Congressism’, persuaded opposition parties to make electoral adjustments with each other.
• The fate of the poor kisan and worker was very dear to Lohia. He said that unless opposition parties were united, the poor could not straighten their backs.
• For him the Congress rule was undemocratic and the Congress rulers were repressing their own people.

The Elections Result

The 1967 elections marked the decline of the Congress System of authority.
• The Congress was jolted and shocked both at the national and the state level. Some Political commentators depicted the election results as a ‘political earthquake’ .
• The number of Congress members in the Lok Sabha declined from 361 to 283.
• Many stalwarts- K.Kamraj in Tamil Nadu, S.K Patil in Maharashtra and Atulya Gosh in West Bengal lost at the polls.
• In many states the Congress failed to win the majority.
• Among the opposition parties, the Swatantra Party got the leading position with 44 seats as against 18 in the Third Lok Sabha.
Non-Congress Governments in Several States– the fourth general elections gave opposition parties an opportunity to form governments in several states.
The most important among them were Madras, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In Kerala also the Congress failed to win a majority.
• In Madras, for over two decades, Congress has been in the power, but in 1967 a regional party DMK had an absolute majority in the Legislative Assembly especially it fought against imposition of Hindi as the Official Language.

Coalition Governments

• The post-1967 period saw the emergence of anti-Congress coalition governments in several states.
• Tamil Nadu was the only the state where the DMK scored a comfortable victory over the Congress, enabling it to form a government on its own strength.
These Anti-Congress governments were called SVD ( Samyukta Vidhayak Dal ) governments, because a number of legislators had decided to work together in order to govern.
• In fact, the non-congress governments constituted various parties and groups which were ideologically opposed to each other. And they took clearly opportunist view of the entire situation.
• In Bihar the SVD government was being supported by the legislators belonging to the SSP, the PSP, the Jana Sangha, the Bharatiya Kranti Dal and the Communist Party of India.
• In Odisha the Swatantra Party formed a coalition governments with the support of the Jana Congress, a breakaway Congress Group.
• In Punjab the Akali Dal ( Saint Group), the Akali (Master Group), the CPI, the CPI-M and the Jana Sangh came together to form the United Democratic Front, led by Gurnam Singh of the Akali Dal (Saint Group).

Politics of Defection

Defection means,’’ giving up the membership of that political party to which a person belonged or in whose ticket or symbol he or she contested an election and joining another party or group.’’
• Voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the party to which one belonged also amounts to defection.
• The post-1967 period saw an alarming increase in the number of defections in the country. These defections were responsible for the fall of several state governments between 1967 and 1968.
• In Uttar Pradesh the Congress had failed to win an absolute majority and was restrained by a leadership struggle between C.B Gupta and Charan Singh. Similar events happened in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, owing to defections from the Congress.
• Such a phenomenon came to described as the politics of ‘Aya Ram, Gya Ram’. This phrase was originated after a legislator from Haryana named Gaya Lal, who kept changing his party time and again. He changed his party three times by going from Congress to United Front and then going back to Congress and then again going to United Front.
• It was Rao Birendra Singh who described him as Aya Ram,Gya Ram in front of the press.
• And hence the expression, ’Floor-Crossing’ means ‘ changing one’s allegiance from one party to another’

Reasons for Decline in Congress in 1967

The absence of a Charismatic leader– Nehru was no more and the Congress party had to fight a General Election for the first time without him. Indira’s leadership was yet to be established firmly.
Factions and Internal Differences within the Congress Party – after Nehru’s death there was consensus in the Congress about the next leader, however after Shastri’s death there was no consensus in the party. In Madhya Pradesh the Congress government collapsed because of differences among the Congressmen. The same thing happened Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
Electoral alliances and Increasing Unity among the Non-Congress Parties – Ram Manohar Lohia was successful in persuading opposition parties to make electoral adjustments with each other. At the time of election of 1967 the opposition parties were more united than ever before.
Economic Discontent – the Congress ceased to be the party of hope because of economic discontent due to many reasons such as the Indo-Pakistan War, two successive years of drought, general rise in prices and discontent with pay and working conditions.
Regional, Ethnic and Communal Factors – Sikhs in Punjab and in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar the Muslims by and large were alienated from the Congress. In Odisha and Rajasthan the industrialists and former Princes were supporting the Swatantra Party. In Assam and Odisha the tribal people felt alienated from the Congress.
The Syndicate had become too Powerful – the Congress became heavily dependent on a few powerful individuals known as the Syndicate. The Congress now lacked organizational structure and cadres committed to the party Programme. The Congress was faction-ridden and badly fractionalized and eventually suffered a split in 1969.

Split in the Congress

The 1967 general elections were a serious blow to the Congress. Although the party was not ousted from power at the Centre, in several states it saw a considerable decrease in its strength.

The Syndicate

• Party’s ‘Old Guards’ began to be called as Syndicate. These senior members had taken a firm grip on the management and organization of the Party.
• Leaders like K.Kamraj , the former Chief Minister of the State of Madras and the then President of the Congress party, S.K Patil from Maharashtra, Sanjiva Reddy from Andhra Pradesh and Atulya Gosh from West Bengal.
After the death of Nehru K.Kamraj palyed a pivotal role in installation of Shastri as the Prime Minister. He gained the reputation of the ‘King-Maker’.
• In 1966 the Syndicate supported Indira Gandhi against Morarji Desai.
• The Syndicate supported Indira Gandhi’s candidacy because they considered her a dumb doll. In other words they thought she could be easily influenced and controlled by them.
• By now however Indira Gandhi had decided to assert her authority. She was waiting eagerly to take an active part in running the country.

The Syndicate vs Indicate ( Indira’s confidants and supporters)

Indira Gandhi knew that the old Congress had died and the only way forward was to reinvent it.
• Two things were required to attain this objective. First to demolish the ‘Syndicate’ which was too conservative in its ways and behavior. Second , to adopt a more progressive rather a populist policy to revive people’s hope that had died.
• In May 1967 Indira Gandhi presented a Ten Point Programme of reform to the party Working Committee.
• The Programme included abolition of Privy Purses of the former Princes, provision of minimum wages to the rural workers, land reforms, ceiling on urban property , distribution of the food grains to the public and social control or Nationalization of banks.
• Throughout 1968 and 1969 Indira Gandhi was trying to convince the syndicate about these programmes as they were very reserved on this issue because they felt its more of a left-wingist programme. But they eventually agreed to it in a formal way.
• Indira was trying to wrench the Congress from Syndicate’s grip.

The Presidential Election, 1969

Within the party the situation became more intense when it came to selecting the Congress candidate to succeed President Zakir Hussain who died in May 1969.
• Indira suggested the names of V.V Giri, the then Vice-President of India .
• But the Congress Parliamentary Board selected N. Sanjeeva Reddy for this post. That made Indira very angry indeed.
• And she encouraged V.V Giri to contest the Presidential election as an independent candidate.
She declared that MP’s and MLA’ s must be allowed to vote on their Conscience.
• It was a trial of strength between the Syndicate and Indira Gandhi who herself canvassed for V.V Giri in the Presidential election.
• In July 1969 the 14 major banks had been nationalized and the privy purses were also abolished. But Morarji Desai did not agree to this and he had to quit the government.
• Indira Gandhi’s electoral strategy was to project herself as the pro-poor and pro-progress.
• Most of the Congress MP’s and many of the MLA’s voted in favour of V.V Giri. The Left parties, DMK and the Muslim League also supported Giri’s candidature.
• V.V Giri won the election against N Sanjiva Reddy, the official candidate of the Congress.
• V.V Giri’s victory showed clearly that the Congress was split in two groups. The Congress President Nijalingappa expelled Indira from the party.
• But the Congress Parliamentary Party, in a meeting attended by 330 out of 432 members, declared this step as ‘invalid and unjustifiable’ and they requisoitioned a meeting of AICC to elect a new Congress President.
The AICC removed Nijalingappa and elected Jagjivan Reddy as the new President of the Congress( Requisitionizts ).
• On the other hand, those Congressmen who stood in opposition to the prime Minister formed a bloc called the Congress ( Organization ). These new factions were popularly known as the ‘New Congress’ and the ‘Old Congress’.
• It was clear that the syndicate had been demolished. Indira Gandhi was successful in demonstrating that her Congress was the real Congress.
Indira’s popularity reached a High Point
• She projected herself as a ‘Messiah of the poor’ , whereas the ‘Old Guard’ was branded as being pro capitalists.
• Besides nationalization of banks, Indira promised to nationalize the coal and mining industry.
• The public image of Old Warriors was that of a reactionary group trying to prevent any changes from taking place, whereas Indira Gandhi and her supporters were gaining in popularity day in and day out.

The Election of 1971

The fifth General Election should have taken place in 1972, but the Lok Sabha was dissolved on 27 December, 1970 a year ago. Hence the fifth General Elections were held in Feb 1971. There were main three reasons why the Lok Sabha dissolved and elections held more than a year ahead –

1. Indira’s Minority government and dependence on other political parties – Indira decided not to continue any more with her minority government as she had to survive with the support of the CPI, the Muslim League, the DMK and a few independents.
2. Restraints on Implementing the Socialist Policies – Indira had made a few radical policy promises that included land reforms, ceiling on urban property and public distribution of foodgrains etc. She felt that for the success in implementing this programme, it was necessary that Constitution must be amended. For that she needed a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members in each house of Parliament. She was seeking People’s Mandate to carry out her Socialist policies after her victory in the elections.
3. A growing realization on the part of Indira Gandhi that people supported her policies – there was already upward swing in Indira’s position, especially after she split the party, nationalized the banks and set in motion the process of abolition of the Privy Purses.

Electoral Contest

For the 1971 elections, Indira Gandhi faced the alliance of several parties working together to defeat the Congress(R).
• The so-called Grand Alliance consisted of the Congress(o), the Swatantra party , the Jana Sangh, the SSP and and the BKD.
• Indira’s Congress (R), on the other hand was being supported by the Communists , the DMK , the Akali Dal and a segment of PSP members. Some of the states also decided to hold elections to their Assemblies at this time. The election symbol of the Congress-R was a Cow and a Calf.
• Indira Gandhi fought the 1971 election on the famous slogan-Garibi Hatao. The slogan now stood for bringing about socio-economic justice, providing all those things which the common people needed most, the basic necessities of life as well as the welfare services.
• Indira’s election campaign was remarkably populist because she tried to please the disadvantaged sections of the community ; the minorities, women, the Scheduled Castes, the ST’s, adivasis and millions of Unemployed young people.

The Results of Lok Sabha Elections

The results of the Lok Sabha elections of 1971 were a surprise even to Indira Gandhi and her supporters. The Congress (R) captured 352 seats, whereas in the dissolved House it was only 228 seats.
• And the so called ‘Grand Alliance’ proved to be a ‘ Grand Failure’. There was a complete rout or defeat of the Congress (O), it could only secure 16 seats.
• The victory which the Congress-R gained in the Lok Sabha elections was reflected in elections to Legislative Assemblies also both in 1971 and later 1972.

Factors that led to the stunning victory of Gandhi and her rising popularity

1. The Non-Congress Governments in States did not produce the desired results – their ideological differences had threatened the stability of the State governments.
2. Indira Gandhi’s policies and programs were remarkably populist– the Garibi Hatao slogan made people feel as if their poverty was definitely going to disappear.
3. Indira had been the subject of massive media coverage – the poor, the dalits and the minorities did rally to support her party.
4. The Congress (O) and the Swatantra party were seen as favouring Capitalists, the former princes and the feudal landlords. – and the party of Indira was projected as the party of progress and the party of poor.
5. In December 1971 Indira Gandhi had won a victory against Pakistan the birth of Bangladesh boosted her image to unimaginable heights. It was her finest hour when even the opposition parties were vying with each other to sing her praises.
6. In 1972 the Assembly elections were held in some 16 states – the Congress won a convincing victory in every state except Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya and Manipur . On the whole the Lok Sabha and later in the Assembly elections established Indira’s dominance over Congress Party, Parliament and the country as a whole.


In the early 1970’s Indira was truly the most popular leader in India. Even Jawaharlal Nehru did not enjoy such enormous and countrywide fame and affection. There seemed to have occurred a decisive swing in favour of the Congress Party. It was depicted as the Restoration of the Congress System. But the Congress under Indira differed vastly from the Congress System under Nehru on the following grounds –

1. The Congress became a party that derived its identity from its leaders.
2. The Congress organization structure was now a thing of the past because Indira Gandhi had established a special kind of rapport with the electorate or voters as a whole.
3. The Congress lost its democratic character. The party or to be more appropriate tended to be intolerant of opposition as well as those Congressmen holding different opinions than her.
4. Earlier the Congress victory depended on a wide variety of social groups but now the main target areas or groups were the SC’ and the Adivasis, the minorities and women.
5. The slogan Garibi Hatao saw the rise of populist politics and she finally became victim of her own propaganda. People’s expectation soared but soon they were disgusted from the economic hardship around them.


  • Parties and the Party Systems in India Class 12 Notes

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