India—Immediately After Independence
India became Independent as a dominion, with the British monarch as head of state,
represented by an appointed GovernorGeneral.
In November 1949, however, the Constituent
Assembly approved a Republican Constitution, providing for a president (with mainly
ceremonial functions) as head of state. Accordingly, India became a republic on January 26,
1950, although remaining a member of the commonwealth.
First border disputes in Sovereign India
The lack of effective opposition to Congress policies expedited industrialization and social
reform. In December 1961, Indian forces overran the Portuguese territories of Goa, Daman
and Diu, which were immediately annexed by India. Border disputes with the People's
Republic of China escalated into a brief military conflict in 1962. Nehru died in May 1964 and
was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri. India and Pakistan fought a second war over Kashmir
in 1965. Following mediation by the USSR, Shastri and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan
signed a joint declaration, aimed at a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute, on January
10, 1966. Prime Minister Shastri died on the following day, Nehru's daughter Indira
became Prime Minister.
Pakistan War of 1971
Border incidents led to a 12day
war with Pakistan in December 1971. The Indian Army
rapidly occupied East Pakistan, which India recognized as the Independent state of
Bangladesh. Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan held a summit
conference at Shimla in JuneJuly
1972, when the two leaders agreed that their respective
forces should respect the ceasefire line in Kashmir, and that India and Pakistan should resolve
their differences through bilateral negotiations or other peaceful means.
Politics in India (19751990)
General elections to the Lok Sabha were held in March 1977, when the numbers of elective
seats were increased to 542. The election resulted in victory for the Janata Party, chaired by
Morarji Desai, who became Prime Minister. In January 1978, Indira Gandhi became leader of
a new breakaway political group, the Congress (Indira) Party, known as Congress (I).
Fall of Desai's Government In 1979, the government's ineffectual approach to domestic
problems provoked a wave of defections by Lok Sabha members of the Janata Party. Many
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joined Raj Narain, who formed a new party, the Lok Dal, the policies of which were based on
Secularism. Congress (I) lost its position as the official opposition party after defections from
its ranks by members who objected to Indira Gandhi's authoritarianism.
The resignation of the Desai government in July was followed by the resignation from the
Janata Party of Charan Singh, who became the leader of the Lok Dal and, shortly afterwards,
Prime Minister in a Coalition with both Congress Parties. When Congress (I) withdrew its
support, Singh's 24day
administration collapsed, and Parliament was dissolved.
A general election to the Lok Sabha was held in January 1980. Congress received 42.7 per
cent of the total vote and won an overwhelming majority (352) of the elective seats. The
Janata Party won only 31 seats, while the Lok Dal won 41 seats. Indira Gandhi was reinstated
as Prime Minister. Presidential rule was imposed in nine states, hitherto governed by
opposition parties, in February 1980.
Entry of Rajiv Gandhi
in June 1981 for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies were notable because of
the landslide victory that Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister's son, obtained in the former
constituency of his late brother (Sanjay Gandhi, killed in an air crash in 1980) and because of
the failure, of the fragmented Janata Party to win any seats. In February 1983, Rajiv Gandhi
became a General Secretary of Congress (I) Party.
Presidential Rule in Assam
Indira Gandhi's government faced serious problems, as disturbance in several states
continued in 1982 and 1983, with violent protests against the presence of Bengali
immigrants. Presidential rule in Assam was replaced by a Congress (I) government in
February 1982, and further elections were held in Assam (and Meghalaya) in February 1983,
amid scenes of communal violence.
The Punjab Problem
There was also unrest in the Sikh Community of Punjab, despite the election to the Indian
presidency in July 1982 of Giani Zail Singh, the first Sikh to hold the position/Demands were
made for greater religious recognition, for the settlement of grievances over land and water
rights, and over the sharing of the state capital at Chandigarh with Haryana; in addition, a
minority called for the creation of a separate Sikh state 'Khalistan'. In October 1983, the state
was brought under presidential rule.
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Assassination of Indira Gandhi
In October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by militant Sikh members of her personal
guard. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, was immediately sworn in as Prime Minister of India, The
widespread communal violence that erupted throughout India, resulting in more than 2500
deaths, was curbed by the prompt action of government. Congress (l) achieved a decisive
victory in elections to Lok Sahha in December.
In June 1980, Laldenga, the leader of the Mizo National Front (MNF) signed a peace
agreement with Rajiv Gandhi, thus ending Mizoram's 25 years of rebellion. The accord
granted Mizoram limited autonomy in drafting the local laws, independent trade with
neighbouring foreign countries and a general assembly for all Mizo rebels.
In October 1990, the BJP withdrew support to the National Front, following the arrest of its
President, Lal Krishna Advani, as he led a controversial procession of Hindu devotees to the
holy town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh to begin the construction of a Hindu temple at the
site of an ancient mosque. Paramilitary troops were sent to Ayodhya, and thousands of Hindu
activists were arrested, in an attempt to prevent a MuslimHindu
following repeated clashes between police and crowds, Hindu extremists stormed and
slightly damaged the mosque and laid siege to it for several days.
Politics in India (19912004)
Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi
On May 21, 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, by members of the Tamil separatist group,
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), while campaigning in Tamil Nadu. P.V.
Narashimha Rao, who had been elected as acting President of Congress (I) following Rajiv
Gandhi's assassination, assumed the premiership and appointed a new Council of Ministers.
The new government's main priority on assuming power was the attempt to solve the
country's severe economic crisis, caused by an enormous foreign debt, high inflation, a large
deficit on the current account of the balance of payments and an extreme shortage of foreign
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Rise of BjP as a Force in Indian Political Scene
After a brief reconciliatory period in latter half of 1991, Rao's government began to face
problems both from opposition agitation and from within its own ranks. The country was also
shocked by revelations of a major financial scandal involving the Bombay Stock Exchange.
It was alleged that several members of the Council of Ministers were among the
beneficiaries, allegations that prompted the resignation of the Minister of State for
Following the collapse of talks between the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) (World Hindu
Council) and the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee regarding the Ayodhya dispute,
the VHP and the BJP appealed for volunteers to begin the construction of a Hindu temple on
the site of the existing mosque on December 6. The temple/mosque complex was stormed by
the Hindu volunteers, who proceeded to tear the remains of the ancient mosque. This highly
inflammatory action provoked widespread communal violence throughout India (Bombay, or
Mumbai as it was later renamed, being one of the worstaffected
The leaders of the BJP, including L. K. Advani and the Party's President, Dr Murli Manohar
Joshi, and the leaders of the VHP were arrested. Uttar Pradesh was placed under President
the Government established a commission of inquiry into the events
leading to the demolition of the mosque at Ayodhya. In late December, the government
announced plans to acquire all the disputed areas in Ayodhya. The acquired land would be
made available to two trusts which would be responsible for the construction of a new Hindu
temple and a new mosque, and for the planned development of the sile.
In January 1996, however, accusations of corruption came to the force in Indian politics
when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) charged seven leading politicians, including
L. K. Advani of the BJP, Devi Lal and Arjun Singh, and sought the prosecution of three
Union Ministers (who subsequently resigned) for allegedly accepting bribes of large amounts
of money from Delhibased
industrialist, Surendra Jain.
The sheer scale of the scandal (known as the Hawala—illegal money transfer case), with
regard to the size of the sums involved and the numbers of people implicated, led to
widespread public disillusionment with Politicians in general.
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Entry of Sonia Gandhi in Politics
In May, Sonia Gandhi joined Congress (I) as a 'primary member', and in the following month
Sitaram Kesri Was reelectcd President of the party in Congress (I)'s first contested leadership
poll since 1977.
K. R. Narayanan—First 'Dalit' President of India
Kocheril Raman Narayanan was elected, almost unanimously, as India's new President; this
appointment was particularly notable in that Narayanan was the first Indian President with a
Fall of Gujral's Government
The UF government looked increasingly insecure in late 1997 when Congress (I) threatened
to withdraw parliamentary support unless the Tamil Nadubased
DMK, which was alleged to
be indirectly implicated 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, was expelled from the coalition.
Prime Minister Gujral rejected Congress (I)'s demand, and was, consequently, forced to
resign when Congress (I) withdrew support to the Government as earlier threatened. This
constituted the third government's collapse in less than two years.
Sonia Gandhi, Congress (l)'s Trump Card
During December 1997, Congress (I) suffered a series of internal splits and defections in at
least six states. In an apparent attempt to the fragmentation of the ailing Congress (I), in late
December, Sonia Gandhi agreed to campaign on behalf of the party in the runup
Atal Bihari Vajpayee becomes 'PM' Again
In the general elections, the BJP and its regional allies established themselves as the preeminent
force in Indian politics. The BJP emerged as the largest party, with 178 of the 545
seats in the Lok Sabha, but win an absolute majority. On March 15 1999, President
Narayanan appointed the Parliamentary leader BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpae (who had briefly held
the premiership in mid1996),
as Prime Minister and asked him to form a stable coalition
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Congress back to Power in 2004 General Elections
NDA suffered defeat wining only 185 seats, of 542 Lok Sabha seats. The INC and its allies
won 220 with others having a share of 137 seats. Dr Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister
with Defence and home (Ministers) being handled by Shivraj Patil and Pranab Mukherjec