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Ascendance of Narendra Modi and landmark events that changed the political canvas in India


Sharda Lal

The dynamism in Indian Democracy is that, at the time of every General Election, the voters of India come to the crossroads, again and again, to choose a government that is supposed to decide the direction in which the people's aspirations for development and growth, culture and essence of the Constitution may be taken. Thus, we have a number of national and regional political parties in the arena, with different shades of leftist, rightist, centralist, capitalist, socialist, mixed and other orientations, contesting for power through vote by ‘adult franchise'. All of the parties swear in the name of the Constitution promulgated on 26 January, 1950, though amended 106 times till date. No wonder, different parties try to put different meanings to different words at different times, often compelling the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India to intervene and interpret.

In the series of Elections for Lok Sabha, which will, ‘God willing', continue to be held regularly as per the prescribed periodicity, for an infinite time to come, the year 2024 is all set to see a General Election that will prove to be another landmark event in Indian history.

The first landmark was established in the year 1951-52, when the maiden General Elections, held after the pains of slavery and partition, had somewhat subsided. Development works got a steady boost, but corruption too got a boost, perhaps at an ever-growing rate.

Recalling an incident in November 1947, three months after India's Independence, Gandhiji's former personal secretary V Kalyanam quoted a person asking Nehru about the growing levels of corruption in India. To that, Nehru replied, according to Kalyanam, “I'm quoting Nehru here, ‘Honourable men should not worry about a little corruption here and there.' The person gave a suitable repartee, he said, ‘Sir, a little corruption is like a little pregnancy, which keeps growing.' And, see what is happening now.” Kalyanam holds “….Panditji responsible for the growing corruption now.” Though he says that Nehru himself wasn't corrupt. – (From: The New Indian Express, 16 May, 2012).

Based largely on first-hand experiences, Walter Crocker, an Australian diplomat who had a long stint in Delhi during the Nehru era and who was also on friendly terms with Nehru, says in his ‘Nehru: A Contemporary's Estimate' refers to a scandal related to spurious drugs that had rocked India. Crocker says, “This gross scandal (making and selling of spurious drugs) was exposed repeatedly. But nothing was done. The family of one of Nehru's ministers was involved in it..” – Source: First Post; July 30, 2022.

In 1975, almost immediately after the crest of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's popularity due to the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 Indo-Pak war, intense protests were started by the opposition parties against her over ‘corruption in public life and economic crisis'. On 12 June, 1975 the Allahabad High Court passed a judgment holding that then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was guilty of electoral malpractices. She was disqualified from holding public office for 6 years. Indira Gandhi challenged the HC order in the Hon'ble Supreme Court. She wanted a blanket stay on the Allahabad High Court judgment, but since the Supreme Court didn't grant her that, National Emergency was proclaimed the very next day, June 25. This Emergency lasted in the country for two years. General elections, scheduled to be held in 1976, were deferred. The term of the fifth Lok Sabha was extended to six years from five with important amendments and even the Preamble of Indian Constitution was amended.

The next landmark was established soon after, in the year 1977, when elections were held for the Sixth Lok Sabha. The combined opposition defeated INC for the first time, to form Janata Party led non-Congress government at the Centre. The new government reduced the term of Lok Sabha to 5 years again and the procedure for imposition of any Emergency in future was made stringent. Meanwhile, extremism started raising its head in the and elsewhere, while the administration and public order became a mockery.

Fourth landmark in Indian democracy was established when the Janata Party Government couldn't keep its own house in order. INC, under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, returned to power with a thumping majority after the midterm elections of 1980. Despite Indira Gandhi's return to power, terrorism and killing of nationalist and innocent Hindus and Sikhs by Khalistani extremists in the Indian state of Punjab and outside, became the order of the day. The unfortunate events led to the tragic Operation Blue-Star by the then Indian Government in the first week of June 1984 to flush out and/or liquidate the ‘terrorists' hiding inside the Holy Golden Temple Complex. Within 5 months of Operation Blue Star, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October, 1984 by her own security guards. The tragic event sparked off senseless killing of thousands of innocent Sikh men, women and children by hooligans and damage to properties. A strong sense of alienation amongst the Sikhs became widespread and although the government tried to assuage their hurt feelings, much damage was already done to both sides.

The eighth Lok Sabha was formed with more than 75 percent seat share of INC and Rajiv Gandhi as PM, but the period was marked by accusations of ‘corruption in defense deals', ‘undue appeasement of various sections of Indian society', Indian support to Sri Lanka against the Tamilian rebels (LTTE) in that country, ‘rigged elections to J&K State Assembly by INC-National Conference led coalition government' and flaring up of Pak Sponsored Terrorism.

After elections to the ninth Lok Sabha in 1989, the period of political instability aggravated further. Implementation of Mandal Commission Report for 27 percent reservation of seats for OBCs, besides 22 percent already reserved for SC and ST in Central government and PSUs led to violent protests, self-immolation attempts and death of a number of students. Terrorism in Kashmir led to large scale killings, kidnappings, massacres and displacement of Hindus, Sikhs and patriotic Muslims from Kashmir valley. Hindus from many Muslim majority areas of Jammu region also left their homes and hearths for safer places.

Due to successive weak governments at the Centre, the political base of Bharatiya Janata Party started fast expanding. On 6 December, 1992, the Babri Masjid structure was demolished by demonstrators from all over the country demanding construction of Shri Ram Janambhoomi Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Agitation for the temple was started by the BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal. Worst communal clashes occurred in different parts of the country, while terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir continued unabated – rather intensified.

Positive outcome of Elections to the Lok Sabha in 1991 was that trade liberalisation and private sector investment received encouragement under the then PM, P. V. Narsimha Rao of the INC. He was ably supported by his Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. The Indian had started showing signs of recovery and growth after years of deep crisis. However, the period of 10 to 11 years from 1989 to 1999 saw six short-lived governments of V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H. D. Deve Gowda, Indra Kumar Gujral and two minority governments of Atal Bihari Vajpayee led Bhartiya Janata Party. The Party was now on a gradual upsurge.

During his third tenure as PM from 1999 to 2004, BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under the PM-ship of Atal Bihari Vajpayee was able to craft a fairly significant level of understanding among the partners of his twenty-four-party coalition. He skillfully drew upon the maturity of the leaders of different ideologies and steered through the coalition despite occasional hiccups.

India faced a treacherous invasion from Pakistan in area in the summers of 1999,, but the invaders were defeated and completely driven out beyond the Line of Control (LoC). LoC is the outcome of the infamous Shimla Agreement of 1972, signed between India and Pakistan. Under the Agreement, the then Indian government led by Indira Gandhi had given away to a humiliated and defeated Pakistan, a huge geographical area and about one lakh prisoners of war, which Indian forces had captured with their blood and military prowess. What India won on the battlefield, was sadly frittered away on a negotiating table. Indian victory in the Kargil war was however different from the 1971 Indo-Pak war. In this case, the sacrifice of Indian soldiers was duly honoured by the NDA government as it didn't surrender any piece of land to Pakistan.

Vajpayee earned unprecedented acclaim and goodwill from his supporters as well as political opponents, but ironically, the NDA and BJP lost the general elections of 2004. Perhaps, the people were not satisfied with Vajpayee government's overarching policies towards Pakistan, who had continued to support terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of India. Rising prices was also the reason.

The fourteenth and fifteenth Lok Sabha from 2004 to 2014 saw the economist Dr Manmohan Singh in the chair as the Prime Minister of India. His first INC led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ministry executed several key legislations and projects, including the National Rural Health Mission, Unique Identification Authority, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Right to Information Act, etc. India's economy grew rapidly under this reign.

The 2009 General Elections saw UPA return to power with an increased mandate. Dr Singh, continuing to be a member of Rajya Sabha and not Lok Sabha, retained the office of Prime Minister. A general impression among the people was however  gaining ground that the strings of the government were actually being pulled by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Manmohan Singh was proving weaker. Over the next few years, Singh's ministry government faced a number of corruption charges pertaining to organisation of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the 2G Spectrum Allocation case, the Allocation of Coal Blocks etc.

Such a sequence of depressing events over the decades were decisively in favour of a strong man who could, democratically take over the reins of the country to restore the pride and glory of India, that is Bharat. That man in the waiting was none other than Narendra Modi. – (to be continued…)

(The Author is a freelance writer)

(The views expressed are of Author's own)






The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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