Chapter 5 Challenges to and Restoration of the Congress System Class 12 Political Science Notes

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Chapter 5 Challenges to and Restoration of the Congress System Class 12 Political Science Notes

Chapter 5 Challenges to and Restoration of the Congress System Class 12 Political Science Notes

Challenge of Political Succession

• Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru passed away in May 1964.

• The 1960s were labelled as the ‘dangerous decade’ when unresolved problems like poverty, inequality, communal and regional divisions etc. could lead to a failure of the democratic project or even the disintegration of the country.

From Nehru to Shastri

• Shastri was the country’s Prime Minister from 1964 to 1966. During Shastri’s brief Prime Ministership, the country faced two major challenges:
→ India was still recovering from the economic implications of the war with China, failed monsoons, drought and serious food crisis presented a serious challenge.
→ The country also faced a war with Pakistan in 1965.

• Shastri’s famous slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’, symbolised the country’s resolve to face both these challenges.

• Shastri suddenly expired in Tashkent, then in USSR and currently the capital of Uzbekistan on 10 January 1966.

From Shastri to Indira Gandhi

• There was an intense competition between Morarji Desai and Indira Gandhi.

• The contest was resolved through a secret ballot among Congress MPs. Indira Gandhi defeated Morarji Desai by securing the support of more than two-thirds of the party’s MPs.

• Within a year of becoming Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi had to lead the party in a Lok Sabha election.

Fourth General Elections, 1967

• The year 1967 is considered a landmark year in India’s political and electoral history.

Context of the elections

• The government of Indira Gandhi decided to devalue the Indian rupee in order to check  economic crisis of 1967.

• The economic situation triggered off price rise. People started protesting against the increase in prices of essential commodities, food scarcity, growing unemployment and the overall economic condition in the country.

• The communist and socialist parties launched struggles for greater equality.

• This period also witnessed some of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots since Independence.


• Opposition parties were in the forefront of organising public protests and pressurising the government.

• They felt that the inexperience of Indira Gandhi and the internal factionalism within the Congress provided them an opportunity to topple the Congress. The socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia gave this strategy the name of ‘non-Congressism’.

• He also produced a theoretical argument in its defence: Congress rule was undemocratic and opposed to the interests of ordinary poor people; therefore, the coming together of the non-Congress parties was necessary for reclaiming democracy for the people.

Electoral Verdict

• The fourth general elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies were held in February 1967.

• The results jolted the Congress at both the national and state levels and many described the election results as a ‘political earthquake’.

• The Congress did manage to get a majority in the Lok Sabha, but with its lowest tally of seats and share of votes since 1952. Half the ministers in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet were defeated.


• The elections of 1967 brought into picture the phenomenon of coalitions.

• Since no single party had got majority, various non- Congress parties came together to form joint legislative parties (called Samyukt Vidhayak Dal in Hindi) that supported non-Congress governments.

• The SVD in Bihar  included the two socialist parties – SSP and PSP alongwith CPI on the left and Jana  Sangh on the right. In Punjab it was called popular United Front and comprised the two  rival Akali Parties at that time.


• Defection means an elected representative leaves the party on whose symbol he/she was elected and joins another party.

• After the 1967 general election, the breakaway Congress legistlators played a major role  in installing non-Congress governments in three States - Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and  Uttar Pradesh.

• The constant realignments and shifting political loyalties in this period  gave rise to the expression ‘Aya Ram’, ‘Gaya Ram’.

Split in the Congress

• After the 1967 elections, the Congress retained power at the Centre but with a reduced majority and lost power in many States.

Indira vs the ‘Syndicate’

• Indira Gandhi had to deal with the ‘syndicate’, a group of powerful and influential leaders from within the Congress.

• Gradually Indira Gandhi attempted to assert her position within the government and the party and ignore Syndicate leaders.

• 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.

• She adopted a very bold strategy and launched  a series of initiatives and got the Congress Working Committee to adopt ‘Ten Point  Programme’ in 1967 that included social control of Banks, Nationalisation of General  Insurance, Ceiling on Urban Property and Income, Public Distribution of Food Grains,  Land Reforms, etc.

Presidential Election, 1969

• The factional rivalry between the Syndicate and Indira Gandhi came in the open in 1969. Following President Zakir Hussain’s death, the post of President of the India fell vacant that year.

• ‘Syndicate’ nominated then speaker of the Lok Sabha, N. Sanjeeva Reddy, as the official Congress candidate for the ensuing Presidential elections.

• Indira Gandhi retaliated by encouraging the then Vice-President, V.V. Giri, to file his nomination as an independent candidate.

• She also announced several big and popular policy measures like  the nationalisation of 14 leading private banks and the abolition of the ‘privy purse’ of the  special privileges given to former princes.

• The defeat of the official Congress candidate formalised the split in Congress into two  separate parties i.e. Congress (O) an organisation led by syndicate known as an ‘Old  Congress’ and Congress (R) – requisitionists led by Indira Gandhi known as a ‘New  Congress’.

The 1971 Election and Restoration of Congress

• The split in the Congress reduced Indira Gandhi Government to a minority. However, she managed to save government with the support of a few other parties including the Communist Party of India and the DMK.

• Indira Gandhi’s government recommended the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in December 1970 which was a bold move.

• The fifth general election to Lok Sabha were held in February 1971.

The contest

• The electoral contest appeared to be loaded against Congress(R). All the major non-communist, non-
Congress opposition parties formed an electoral alliance known as the Grand Alliance.

• The ruling party had an alliance with the CPI.

• The Grand Alliance did not have a coherent political programme. Indira Gandhi said that the opposition alliance had only one common programme: Indira Hatao (Remove Indira).

• She gave the famous slogan Garibi Hatao (Remove Poverty) and focused on the growth of the public sector,

• The slogan of garibi hatao 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

• The results of Lok Sabha elections of 1971, were as dramatic.

• The Congress(R)-CPI alliance combine won 375 seats in Lok Sabha and secured 48.4 per cent votes.Indira Gandhi’s Congress (R) won 352 seats with about 44 per cent of the popular votes on its own. 

• The performance of the Congress (O), the party with so many stalwarts could get less than one-fourth of the votes secured by Indira Gandhi’s party and won merely 16 seats. The Grand Alliance of the combined tally of seats was less than 40.

• With this the Congress party led by Indira Gandhi established its claim to being the ‘real’ Congress and restored to it the dominant position in Indian politics.

• The 1971 elections were followed by the crisis in East Pakistan and the Indo-Pak war leading to the establishment of Bangladesh.

• Her party swept through all the State Assembly elections held in 1972.


• Indira Gandhi did not revive old Congress Party but she re-invented the party by forming  an entirely different popular party to accommodate some social groups, the poor, the  women, the dalits, adivasis and the minorities.

• Thus, Indira Gandhi restored the Congress  system by changing the nature of Congress system itself. 
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