Find a Security Clearance Job!


India - Political Developments

PartyPrime Minister
19471964CongressJawaharlal Nehru
19641966CongressLal Bahadur Shastri
19661977CongressIndira Gandhi
19771979JanataMorarji Desai
19791980JanataCharan Singh
19801984CongressIndira Gandhi
19841989CongressRajiv Gandhi
19891990Janata DalV.P. Singh
19901991Janata DalChandra Shekhar
19911996CongressP.V. Narasimha Rao
19961996Bharatiya JanataAtal Bihari Vajpayee
19961997Janata DalH.D. Deve Gowda
19961997Janata DalInder Kumar Gujral
19972004Bharatiya JanataAtal Bihari Vajpayee
20042014CongressManmohan Singh
20142019Bharatiya JanataNarendra Modi

As for democracy as practiced in India, Arundhati Roy said: 'While there is some amount of democracy in India there has not been a single day since independence when the state has not deployed the armed forces to quash insurgencies within its boundaries. The numbers of people who have been killed and tortured are incredible. It is a state which is continuously at war with its own people. If you look what is happening in places like Chhattisgarh and Odisha it will be an insult to call it a democracy'.

Ms Roy further believes 'that elections have become a massive corporate project and the media is owned and operated by the same corporations too'. She opines that "some amount of democracy in India is reserved for its middle classes alone and through thatthey are co-opted by the state and become loyal consumers of the state narrative'.

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.

1999 Election - BJP / National Democratic Alliance

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 had 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.

2004 Election - Congress / United Progressive Alliance (UPA)

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, the political fallout 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, had 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 Indias 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.

2014 Election

In June 2013 Indias main opposition party chose one of the countrys 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 exposed deep rifts within his party. Speaking to party members after his election as head of the Bharatiya Janata Partys (BJP) poll campaign committee, Narendra Modi vowed to defeat the ruling Congress Party, which 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 countrys two main parties - the Hindu nationalist BJP and the Congress Party starts taking shape - Modi became one of Indias 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.

Modis strongest supporters are Indias 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 Gujarats 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 Indias economy to slump to its slowest in a decade.

The ruling Congress party suffered a crushing defeat in elections 01 December 2013 in four key states, signaling a difficult road ahead for the party as it prepared for national elections in 2014. The Bharatiya Janata Party emerged the frontrunner in these states, but it was the impressive showing in the Indian capital by a new party born on an anti-corruption plank that captured attention. In Rajasthan, BJP won 162 seats in the 199 constituencies that went to poll. Congress won 21, National People's Party, NPP-4 and Bahujan Samaj Party -3. Independents and others won nine. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP won 49 seats in the 90 member assembly. The Congress won 39, BSP-1 and others - one. Delhi gave a fractured verdict with no party getting absolute majority in the 70 member assembly. The remarkable change in the election scenario was witnessed in Delhi with the debutant Aam Aadmi Party giving a tough battle to BJP and Congress.

India began its multi-stage parliamentary election in April, with opinion polls suggesting that the opposition Hindu nationalist block could upset the longtime ruling Congress Party. Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath said on March 05, 2014 sum 814 million people have registered to vote, making it what could be the world's largest ever election. In a press conference, he described the multi-round voting process. "The first day of the poll shall be on 7th April, 2014. This is held in two states and the number of parliamentary constituencies will be six. The next date of poll is 9th April, which will cover five states and seven parliamentary constituencies," he said. In total, nine rounds of voting will be held, with the final round being held May 12.

India's election spending is set to reach $5 billion -- three times higher than in 2009 -- as candidates spend millions of dollars on the countrys most expensive campaign. A large portion of funding comes from unaccountable sources, and some is used to bribe voters. Although the ruling Congress Party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party are the main contenders, there are some 30 parties competing for the 543 seats in parliament. India's election commission caps candidate campaign spending at $115,000, but it is well known that candidates spend many times that sum. In some states, more than 50 percent of the voters are paid money by the candidates, what is called note for vote. Between the Congress and the BJP, roughly one third of the candidates have criminal cases and 13 percent with serious criminal cases.

Results were announced on May 16. The Election Commission of India says a record 66 percent of the country's 815 million registered voters cast ballots. BJP secured the biggest win by a single party in 30 years. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a crushing victory in the general election by grasping an absolute majority of 282 seats. That meant BJP can create a government without forming a coalition with regional leaders. The Congress Paraty, led by the Gandhi family's Congress party, which ruled India for the last decade, suffered its worst defeat in history with only 44 seats.

This newly elected Lok Sabha [Indian Parliament's lower house], will have the highest proportion of lawmakers with criminal cases against them and will also be the richest since 2004. Over a third or 34 percent of new Members of Parliament face criminal charges, according to data from the Association for Democratic Reforms' (ADR) analysis of election affidavits filed before the Election Commission of India (ECI). This came against 30 percent in 2009 and 24 percent in 2004, said the report. Over a third of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) new MPs face criminal charges and over a fifth face serious criminal charges, said the report. For the Congress, the proportion is lower at 18 percent and 7 percent, respectively. With 82 percent of its members worth over 10 million rupees ( 160,000 U.S. dollars) each, this will also be the richest known Lok Sabha, compared to 2009's 58 percent and 2004's 30 percent.

With no foreign policy track record, it is uncertain how Modi might alter Indias international relations. Relations with Pakistan, both economic and diplomatic, could improve if Modi becomes prime minister, as it did under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first BJP prime minister, between 1998 and 2004. Modi could be under tremendous pressure from hardliners in his party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modis ruling Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janata Party, suffered a crushing defeat in a key November 2015 election in Bihar, one of the countrys largest and most underdeveloped states. The decisive loss signaled a decline in his popularity, and could be a setback to his economic reform agenda. Earlier this year the BJP was also routed in elections held in Delhi. The results dealt a blow to his partys hopes of improving its numbers in the upper house of parliament, which was needed to pass key pending legislation on tax reform.

The BJP may not get the majority mark of 123 during the remaining period of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government. Other states including Assam and Uttar Pradesh will also go to polls before 2019 general elections, but the NDA cannot bank much on the basis of mere projections of future results after losing crucial numbers in Delhi and Bihar.

At present, the NDA had only 67 members in the Rajya Sabha as against 78 members of the UPA. Though the NDA does not need majority in the Upper House while getting Money Bills passed, it certainly needs majority to get assent of the Rajya Sabha in case of non-Money Bills. In case of non-Money Bills, the powers of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are equal. Every non-financial measure must be passed by both of the Houses before it can become an Act. The Lok Sabha had no power to overrule the Rajya Sabha in such Bills which can be introduced in either House. Though the government still had options to get crucial Bills passed by calling joint sitting of Parliament or by getting support of other parties (89 non-UPA members and 10 nominated ones), this is not always considered an easy route considering the complexities involved in convincing different parties on different issues.

On May 19, 2016 Indias ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gained a much-needed boost in regional elections, wrestling control of the northeastern state of Assam and expanding its influence beyond its traditional strongholds. The news came after two humiliating losses in Delhi and Bihar in 2015 raised questions about loss of momentum for the Hindu nationalist party, which swept national elections in 2014. The win in Assam, an underdeveloped state rife with ethnic and religious tension, was significant because it shows the Hindu nationalist party making a mark in an area outside the north and west from where much of its support flows.

Although the BJP scored a win against a weakened Congress in Assam, it failed to gain a foothold in the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, or make a significant mark in West Bengal, which are controlled by powerful regional parties. In fact, the elections demonstrated the continuing influence of these parties and the sway that charismatic local leaders command in several key states. The fiery leader of the Trinamool Congress, Mamata Banerjee, retained control of West Bengal, and another woman leader, J. Jayalalithaa, held on to power in Tamil Nadu.

The results were a huge blow for the Congress Party which ruled India for over 60 years and was once the countrys dominant political party. Besides losing Assam, the party also lost the southern state of Kerala, where a coalition of left-wing parties led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was ahead. Those were crucial losses for a party that is now not a significant player in most of the countrys 29 states.

India will hold a series of state elections that will test the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wake of a controversial currency ban that he has pitched as a major step to battle corruption, but which led to huge cash shortages in the country. The polls in five states - Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa - will start 04 February 2017 and be staggered over more than a month.

Announcing the polls, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said that over 160 million voters will take part in these polls, that is the size of this exercise. Being held halfway through the prime minister's term, the polls will decide whether his sudden move to scrap 86 percent of the currency is endorsed by voters or whether it alienated millions of poor people who were the worst hit by the cash shortages that have still not eased. The most crucial for Modi is the battleground state of Uttar Pradesh, the countrys most populous region that his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hopes to wrest from a regional party.

Join the mailing list