India - Political Developments
|1964||1966||Congress||Lal Bahadur Shastri|
|1989||1990||Janata Dal||V.P. Singh|
|1990||1991||Janata Dal||Chandra Shekhar|
|1991||1996||Congress||P.V. Narasimha Rao|
|1996||1996||Bharatiya Janata||Atal Bihari Vajpayee|
|1996||1997||Janata Dal||H.D. Deve Gowda|
|1996||1997||Janata Dal||Inder Kumar Gujral|
|1997||2004||Bharatiya Janata||Atal Bihari Vajpayee|
After independence, the Indian National Congress, the party of Mohandas K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, ruled India under the leadership first of Nehru and then his daughter (Indira Gandhi) and grandson (Rajiv Gandhi), with the exception of brief periods in the 1970s and 1980s, during a short period in 1996, and the period from 1998-2004, when a coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party governed.
Prime Minister Nehru governed the nation until his death in 1964. Nehru was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri, who also died in office. In 1966, power passed to Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister from 1966 to 1977. In 1975, beset with deepening political and economic problems, Mrs. Gandhi declared a state of emergency and suspended many civil liberties. Seeking a mandate at the polls for her policies, she called for elections in 1977, only to be defeated by Morarji Desai, who headed the Janata Party, an amalgam of five opposition parties.
In 1979, Desai's Government crumbled. Charan Singh formed an interim government, which was followed by Mrs. Gandhi's return to power in January 1980. On October 31, 1984, Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated, and her son, Rajiv, was chosen by the Congress (I)--for "Indira"--Party to take her place. His Congress government was plagued with allegations of corruption resulting in an early call for national elections in 1989.
Although Rajiv Gandhi's Congress Party won more seats than any other single party in the 1989 elections, he was unable to form a government with a clear majority. The Janata Dal, a union of opposition parties, then joined with the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the right and the Communists on the left to form the government. This loose coalition collapsed in November 1990, and the Janata Dal, supported by the Congress (I), came to power for a short period, with Chandra Shekhar as Prime Minister. That alliance also collapsed, resulting in national elections in June 1991.
While campaigning in Tamil Nadu on behalf of Congress (I), Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 27, 1991, apparently by Tamil extremists from Sri Lanka, unhappy with India's armed intervention to try to stop the civil war there. In the elections, Congress (I) won 213 parliamentary seats and returned to power at the head of a coalition, under the leadership of P.V. Narasimha Rao. This Congress-led government, which served a full 5-year term, initiated a gradual process of economic liberalization and reform, which opened the Indian economy to global trade and investment. India's domestic politics also took new shape, as the nationalist appeal of the Congress Party gave way to traditional caste, creed, and ethnic alignments, leading to the founding of a plethora of small, regionally based political parties.
The final months of the Rao-led government in the spring of 1996 were marred by several major corruption scandals, which contributed to the worst electoral performance by the Congress Party in its history. The Hindu-nationalist BJP emerged from the May 1996 national elections as the single-largest party in the Lok Sabha but without a parliamentary majority. Under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the subsequent BJP coalition lasted only 13 days. With all political parties wishing to avoid another round of elections, a 14-party coalition led by the Janata Dal formed a government known as the United Front, under the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, H.D. Deve Gowda. His government collapsed after less than a year, when the Congress Party withdrew its support in March 1997. Inder Kumar Gujral replaced Deve Gowda as the consensus choice for Prime Minister at the head of a 16-party United Front coalition.
In November 1997, the Congress Party again withdrew support from the United Front. In new elections in February 1998, the BJP won the largest number of seats in Parliament--182--but fell far short of a majority. On March 20, 1998, the President approved a BJP-led coalition government with Vajpayee again serving as Prime Minister. On May 11 and 13, 1998, this government conducted a series of underground nuclear tests, spurring U.S. President Bill Clinton to impose economic sanctions on India pursuant to the 1994 Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act.
In April 1999, the BJP-led coalition government fell apart, leading to fresh elections in September-October. The National Democratic Alliance--a new coalition led by the BJP--won a majority to form the government with Vajpayee a Prime Minister in October 1999. The NDA government was the first coalition in many years to serve a full 5-year term, providing much-needed political stability. The Kargil conflict in May-July 1999 and an attack by terrorists on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 led to increased tensions with Pakistan.
Hindu nationalists supportive of the BJP agitated to build a temple on a disputed site in Ayodhya, destroying a 17th century mosque there in December 1992, and sparking widespread religious riots in which thousands, mostly Muslims, were killed. In February 2002, 57 Hindu volunteers returning from Ayodhya were burnt alive when their train caught fire. Alleging that the fire was caused by Muslim attackers, anti-Muslim rioters throughout the state of Gujarat killed over 2,000 people and left 100,000 homeless. The Gujarat state government and the police were criticized for failing to stop the violence and in some cases for participating in or encouraging it.
The Bharatiya Janata Party easily defeated the opposition Congress Party in state assembly elections in the western state of Gujarat in December 2002. The BJP won at least 127 seats in the 181 seat state assembly, giving the party the two-thirds majority it needs to form a government on its own. The BJP confounded its critics and swept to victory in Gujarat, just months after religious rioting in the state left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead. The BJP victory is a personal triumph for Narendra Modi. The state's Chief Minister has been harshly criticized by opposition politicians and human rights groups. They say he did not do enough earlier this year to control violence that followed the deaths of 58 Hindu activists in a train fire allegedly set by a Muslim mob in the town of Godhra.
The ruling BJP-led coalition was defeated in a five-stage election held in April and May of 2004. The Congress Party, under the leadership Sonia Gandhi, the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, formed a coalition government, known as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). It took power on May 22 with Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. The UPA's victory was attributed to dissatisfaction among poorer rural voters that the prosperity of the cities had not filtered down to them, and rejection of the BJP's Hindu nationalist agenda.
The Congress-led UPA government continued many of the BJP's foreign policies, particularly improving relations with the U.S. Prime Minister Singh and President George W. Bush concluded a landmark U.S.-India strategic partnership framework agreement on July 18, 2005. In March 2006, President Bush visited India to further the many initiatives that underlie the new agreement. The strategic partnership is anchored by a historic civil nuclear cooperation initiative and includes cooperation in the fields of space, high-technology commerce, health issues, democracy promotion, agriculture, and trade and investment.
In July 2008, the UPA won a confidence motion with 275 votes in its favor and 256 against. The two-day special session of parliament to consider the confidence motion culminated late on 22 July 0082 with a victory for the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government. The tally was 275 votes in favor of the confidence motion, 256 opposed, and 12 absences or abstentions. The vote followed a threatened walk-out by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after its representatives dumped millions of rupees on the floor of parliament allegedly paid by UPA representative in exchange for abstentions. In the end, they did not walk out.
Following a dramatic July 22 confidence vote (Ref A), the political fallout has produced an emboldened United Progressive Alliance (UPA), a demoralized National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and somewhere in between, a regional party amalgam "Third Front," struggling to achieve national prominence. The Congress Party-led UPA government's victory breathed new life into the ailing coalition. The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) momentum, which had been building after a string of electoral wins, has been at least momentarily halted. Defections to the UPA exposed the BJP's poor political management. The Left, which prompted the vote by withdrawing support for the UPA, was dealt a severe blow.
In late November 2008, terrorists killed at least 164 people in a series of coordinated attacks around Mumbai. Prime Minister Singh promised a thorough investigation and Home Minister Chidambaram pledged significant reforms to improve India’s counterterrorism agencies.
The Congress-led UPA coalition gained a more stable majority following the May 2009 elections, riding mainly on the support of rural voters. Manmohan Singh became the first Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to return to power after completing a full 5-year term. In July 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to India to launch the “Strategic Dialogue,” which called for collaboration in a number of areas, including climate change, trade, education, and counterterrorism. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington, DC in late November 2009 for the first state visit of the Obama administration.
In June 2013 India’s main opposition party chose one of the country’s most controversial politicians, Narendra Modi, to lead it in national elections in 2014. This boosted his chances of becoming prime minister, if the party wins. But the choice of the Hindu nationalist leader has exposed deep rifts within his party. Speaking to party members after his election as head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) poll campaign committee, Narendra Modi vowed to defeat the ruling Congress Party, which has headed a coalition government since 2004. Modi said the party's aim should be to free India of Congress Party rule. He said, if this can happen all problems will be solved. India is to hold elections by spring 2014. And, as the race between the country’s two main parties - the Hindu nationalist BJP and the Congress Party starts taking shape - Modi became one of India’s most closely-watched politicians. The senior leadership was a little uneasy because Modi is the kind of domineering leader who had very little time for other senior leaders. Modi would definitely take BJP toward a personality-oriented party.
Modi’s strongest supporters are India’s urban, middle classes, who are looking for an alternative to the scandal-ridden Congress Party and calling for cleaner governance. But this message may not resonate in the heartland of India. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi focused on development, with a special emphasis on the urban middle class, to the detriment of the peasantry and, more specifically, Dalits and Tribals. The result was an unprecedented urban-rural polarization during Gujarat’s 2012 state elections. The increasing polarization between the rural and urban electorates may be one of the main features of the 2014 elention. The Congress image had been badly tarnished by a series of corruption scandals during its second term in office. It also received flak for a policy paralysis that led India’s economy to slump to its slowest in a decade.
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