Results of 14 th National General Election, 2004: seats in Lok Sabha
Congress-dominated United Progressive
(Indian National Congress 145)
BJP-dominated National Democratic
(Bharatiya Janata Party 138)
Left Front 62
(Communist Party Marxist (CPM) 43)
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) 19
Samajwadi Party (SP) 36
The development of the Indian party system (Yadav 1997)
Single party dominance (1947-1967).
Congress Party dominated nationally and to a large extent at state level.
Congress-opposition system (1967-1993).
Congress remained the most prominent party at national level but faced serious competition at the state level.
Multi-party system (1993 onwards).
Congress no longer the pivotal force. Growth of regional parties and coalitional politics.
Single party system (1947-67)
Congress dominates national elections
In office continuously
Regularly polls over 40% of the vote and secures over 70% of the seats
No cohesive opposition
Other parties function as ‘pressure parties’
Reasons for early Congress Party dominance
Because based on nationalist movement
Seen as representing nation
Able encompass diversity
Existing link with government, ‘ sarkar ’
Giving rise to further advantages..
Able to determine electoral system (FPTP)
Able to develop as ‘catch-all’ party
The ‘Congress system’
‘ political competition was internalized and carried on within the Congress. There developed an elaborate system of factions at every level of political and governmental activity, and a system of coordination between the various levels through various ‘faction chains’. Originating on the basis of individual competition between leaders, these factions were then built around a functional network consisting of various social groups and leader-client relationships ….. an intricate structure of conflict, mediation, bargaining, and consensus was developed within the framework of the Congress’ (Kothari 1964: 42).
Beyond Congress, other political parties operated as /parties of pressure’
Congress-opposition phase (1967-1993)
Congress faced challenge at state level
Two periods out of office at national level:
1977-1979 (to the Janata coalition)
1989-1991 (to the National Front coalition)
Opposition parties stronger, periods of unity
Factors contributing to second phase
Increasing economic discontent
Increasing politicisation of marginal social groups
Challenges to traditional leadership in Congress
Chronology of key developments
1964 Death of Nehru
1966 Indira Gandhi becomes Congress leader
1967 Fourth General and state assembly elections. Congress loses control in 8 out of
1969 Split in Congress
1971 Fifth General Election. Congress’ ‘landslide’ victory
1975 National Emergency declared
1977 Sixth General Election. Congress defeated by Janata
1978 Congress splits again
1979 Fall of Janata government
1980 Seventh General Election. Congress (I) (Mrs Gandhi’s wing) wins.
1984 Mrs Gandhi assassinated. Rajiv Gandhi is new Congress leader.
Eighth General Election. Congress wins best ever electoral victory.
1989 Ninth General Election. National Front government formed
1991 Collapse of second National Front government. Tenth General Election.
Rajiv assassinated half way through. New Congress leader Narasimha
Institutional decline of Congress through the 1970s and 80s
Decline of independent state politicians
Party support constructed from the top-down, not bottom-up as before
Rise of dynasty and personality cult
Personality more important than institution
Succession of Indira Gandhi by her son Rajiv Gandhi
Dynasty and the Congress Party
Multi-party politics, 1993 onwards
Congress no longer represents the focal point of electoral competition