Challenge of Political Succession
(i) Nehru’s death in 1964 generated a lot of speculation about the question of succession. The 1960s were labelled as the ‘dangerous decade’ due to many challenges and unsolved problems.
(ii) After the death of Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri was unanimously chosen as the leader of the Congress parliamentary party, and became India’s next Prime Minister.
(iii) During Shastri tenure from 1964 to 1966 the country faced two major challenges; serious food crisis and war with Pakistan in 1965. Shastri’s famous slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ symbolised the country’s resolve to face both these challenges.
(iv) After sudden death of Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966 there was an intense competition between Morari Desai and Indira Gandhi for succession. Indira Gandhi was backed by senior party leaders.
Fourth General Elections, 1967
(i) The year 1967 is considered as a landmark year in India’s political and electoral history.
(ii) In prevailing political environment the economic situation triggered off price rise. People started protesting against the increase in prices of essential commodities, food scarcity etc.
(iii) The communist and socialist parties launched struggles for great equality.
(iv) 1960s also witnessed some of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots since independence.
(i) Opposition parties were in the forefront of organising public protests and pressurising the government.
(ii) These opposition parties felt that the inexperience of Indira Gandhi and the internal fractionalism within the Congress provided them an opportunity to topple the Congress.
(iii) The socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia gave this strategy the name of ‘non-congressism’.
(i) The fourth general elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies were held in February 1967.
(ii) The results jolted the Congress at both the national and state levels, and it was termed as ‘political earthquake’.
(i) The elections of 1967 brought into picture the phenomenon of coalitions.
(ii) Since no single party had got majority, various non-congress parties came together to from joint legislative parties (called Samyukt Vidhayak Dal in Hindi) that supported non-congress governments.
Defection means an elected representative leaves the party on whose symbol he/she elected and joins another party. The constant realignments and shifting political loyalties in this period gave rise to the expression ‘Aya Ram, Gya Ram’.
Split in the Congress
After the 1967 elections Congress saw split due to various differences.
Indira vs the ‘Syndicate’
(i) Syndicate was a group of powerful and influential leaders from within the Congress.
(ii) Indira Gandhi faced two challenges from syndicate to build her independence from the syndicate and to work towards regaining the ground that the Congress had lost in the 1967 elections.
Presidential Election, 1969
(i) The factional rivalry between the Syndicate and Indira Gandhi was clearly visible when the post of President of India was vacated in 1969 after the death of Zakir Hussain.
(ii) Syndicate supported official candidate of the Congress N.Sanjeeva Reddy while Indira Gandhi supported VV Giri as the candidate for the President of India.
(iii) Indira Gandhi announced the nationalism of fourteen leading private banks and the abolition of the ‘privy purse’ which removed differences between Morarji Desai and Indira Gandhi.
(iv) The defeat of official Congress candidate formalised the split in the party.
The 1971 Election and Restoration of Congress
The Indira Gandhi’s Government recommended the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in December 1970 and the fifth general elections to the Lok Sabha were held in February 1971.
(i) In 1971 election, all the major non-communist, non-congress opposition parties formed an electoral alliance known as the Grand Alliance.
(ii) Indira Gandhi said that the opposition alliance had only cone common programme Indira Hatao, in contrast she put forward a positive programme captured in the famous slogan Garibi Hatao.
(iii) This Slogan and the programmes that followed it were part of Indira Gandhi’s political strategy of building an independent nationwide political support base.
The Outcome and After Effect
(i) The results of the 1971 Lok Sabha elections were dramatic as the Congress(R) -CPI alliance won more seats and votes than the Congress had ever won in the first four general elections.
(ii) They combine won 375 seats in Lok Sabha and secured 48.4 percent votes. Indira Gandhi’s Congress(R) won 352 seats with about 44 per cent of the popular votes on its own.
(iii) The Grand Alliance of the opposition proved a grand failure. Their combined tally of seats was less than 40.
(i) Indira Gandhi in many ways had re-invented the party. Now, it was a new Congress that had emerged.
(ii) While the Congress consolidated its position and Indira Gandhi assumed a position of unprecedented political authority, the spaces for democratic expression of people’s aspirations actually shrank.
(iii) The popular unrest and mobilisation around issues of development and economic deprivation continued to grow.