Chapter 2. Era of One-Party Dominance

First General Election
• Constitution was adopted on 26 November 1949 and signed on 24 January 1950, and it came into effect on 26 January 1950. It was necessary to install first democratically elected government of country.
• Election Commission of India was set up in January 1950. Sukumar Sen became first Chief Election Commissioner.
• first general elections had been postponed twice and finally held from October 1951 to February 1952. But this election referred to as 1952 election since most parts of country voted in January 1952. It took six months for campaigning, polling & counting to be completed.
• Elections were competitive. On average more than four candidates for each seat.
• level of participation was encouraging and more than half eligible voters turned out to vote on day of elections.
• results of first general election did not surprise anyone. Indian National Congress was expected to win this election. It was only party then to have an organisation spread all over country.
• Jawahar Lal Nehru led Congress campaign and toured country.
• When final results were declared, extent of victory of Congress did surprise many. party won 364 of 489 seats in first Lok Sabha and finished way ahead of any other challenger.
• Communist Party of India that came next in terms of seats won only 16 seats.
• State elections were held with Lok Sabha elections. Congress scored a big victory in those elections as well.

Reasons for Success
• roots of this extraordinary success of Congress party went back to legacy of freedom struggle.
• Congress was seen as inheritor of national movement. Many leaders who were at forefront of that struggle were now contesting elections as Congress candidates.
• Congress was a very well-organised party.
• By time of Independence, party had not only spread across length and breadth of country but had an organisational network down to local level.
• All these factors contributed to dominance of Congress party.
• Congress evolved from its origins in 1885 as a pressure group for newly educated, professional and commercial classes to a mass movement in twentieth century. This laid basis for its eventual transformation into a mass political party and its subsequent domination of political system.
• Congress began as a party dominated by English-speaking, upper caste, upper-middle-class and urban elite. But with every civil disobedience movement it launched, its social base widened.
• Over time, its leaders became more than just upper-caste and upper-class professionals. They also included people who worked in agriculture and had a focus on rural areas. By the time India got its independence, Congress had changed into a social coalition that looked like a rainbow and represented India’s many classes, castes, religions, languages, and interests.
• Many groups merged their identities into Congress. Most of the time, they didn’t, and they kept existing in Congress as different groups and individuals with different ideas. In this way, Congress was also a group of people with similar ideas.
• This coalition-like character of Congress gave an unusual strength to it.
• First, a coalition accommodates all those who join it. Therefore, it has to avoid any extreme position and strike a balance on almost all issues.
• Compromise and inclusiveness are hallmarks of a coalition. This strategy put opposition in difficulty.
• Second in a party that has nature of coalition, there should be greater tolerance of internal differences and ambitions of various groups and leaders are accommodated.
• Even if a group was not happy with position of party or with its share of power, it would remain inside party and fight other groups rather than leaving party and becoming an opposition.
• These groups inside party are known as factions. coalitional nature of Congress party tolerated and encouraged various factions.

Emergence of Opposition Parties
• roots of almost all non-congress parties of today can be traced to one or other of opposition parties of 1950s.
• All these opposition parties succeeded in gaining only a token representation in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies during that period.
• Their presence played a crucial role in maintaining democratic character of system.
• These parties offered a sustained and often principled criticism of policies and practices of Congress party. This kept ruling party under check and often changed balance of power within Congress.
• In early years, there was a lot of mutual respect between leaders of Congress and those of opposition.
• Interim Government that ruled country after declaration of Independence and first general election included opposition leaders like Dr. Ambedkar and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in Cabinet.
• Jawaharlal Nehru invited socialist leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan to join his government.
• inclusive character of National Movement led by Congress enabled it to attract different sections, groups, & interests, making it a broad-based social and ideological coalition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *