Evolution of political parties in India since independence

1952-64 :The Nehruvian era of national consensus

The Congress Party was the dominant party and Indian democracy was essentially a one party system also termed as ‘Congress system’.

    • Congress evolved as the party that was like a big umbrella under which all communities and interests and ideologies sought and got a place.
    • There were many small parties competing with the Congress but they acted mainly as a kind of pressure groups.

1964-77: An Uneasy Transition

    • With the death of Jawahar Lal Nehru, and 1967 elections posed challenge to dominance of the congress system.
      • The Congress failed to secure majorities in eight states and its majority in the Lok Sabha was reduced to very narrow 54% of the seats.
    • Regional parties started growing all over the country.
    • The dismal performance of the Congress led to a series of power struggles with in congress.
    • Ultimately, the party was split in 1969 and Indira Gandhi’s supremacy was established both in the party and the government.
    • However, some leaders like Morarji Desai in Gujarat and JP (Jaiprakash Narain) in Bihar carried out a successful movement against Congress corruption and arbitrary rule.
    • Their movement peaked in 1975 when Indira Gandhi for the first and only time in Indian history decided to impose in Internal emergency.

1977-80: A Period of a New Consensus and Increasing Inter-Party Conflict

    • New coalition emerged led by Janata Party in 1977.
    • This led to Emergence of a Multi-Party System in India.
    • Many smaller parties had come together to fight the Congress dominance rather than any ideological consensus.
    • But, the lack of ideologically coherent policy led to fall of Janata party and congress gained rise of power in 1980.

1980-89: Tussle between the Congress at the centre and the newly emerged regional parties at the state level

    • Frivolous use of President’s rule under Article 356.
    • However, the regional parties got strengthened and started playing a more assertive role in centre politics.
      • In the eighth Lok Sabha Elections (1984), the Telugu Desam, a regional party of Andhra Pradesh, emerged as the main opposition party.

1989 to till date : Multi-party system and Coalition politics

  • The death of Rajiv Gandhi, corruption cases (Bofors scandal), economic crisis, all set the tone for an era of coalitions that has lasted for almost twenty five years of coalition governments.
  • The modern era of coalition politics has come into being as a consequence of the development of the multi-party system.
  • However, this period is marred by compulsions of coalition.
    • Growth of Regional Parties also lead to ‘rainbow’ coalitions, so called because like the rainbow, they last only a short time.
      • The period of 1996 – 1999 had 3 general elections, which cost a lot of public money.
    • Policy paralysis and delay in decision making and bills all result from coalitions.
      • In times of emergency, coalition coordination can lead to unacceptable delays.
    • Coalition government can obstruct the process of decision making and the conduct of decision implementation.
    • Coalition government has turned politics of north India into one of competition for vote banks based on caste and community etc.
  • On the contrary, during times of coalitions, regional parties served as a moderating force upon exclusionary national parties.
    • Regional parties fill a vacuum for protecting minorities.
    • The coalition politics has led to empowerment for regional parties from the states and has added to India’s search for true federalism.
      • Thus, it paves the way for a kind of ‘electoral federalism’.
    • Since 1996, twenty three regional parties have been sharing power at the national level. there is a strong sense of Indianness, or what is called a federal unifier.