Challenges to and Restoration of the Congress System Class 12 Political Science Notes And Questions

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

Democracy is the most difficult form of government. The pioneer of democracy in India was Nehru, the PM of India. Nehru worked hard to promote Parliamentary procedure in India and develop an abiding faith of people in the constitutional system. The country made tremendous social, political and economic progress under his leadership. After Nehru’s death a lot of questions were raised about smooth working of democracy and future of India but Lal Bahadur Shastri, a man of considerable political and administrative experience became second PM of India. The 1960s was labelled as a ‘dangerous decade’ because of problems like – poverty, inequality, unemployment, communal and regional discourse could lead to a failure of the democratic project or even disintegration of the country.

Political succession after Nehru

  • Nehru’s death on 27 May 1964 left a vacuum or void in the Congress.
  • Lal Bahadur Shastri was unanimously chosen as the leader of the Congress Parliamentary party over right-wing conservative Morarji Desai as the next PM of India.
  • Shastri was a non-controversial leader from U.P. who had been a minister in Nehru’s cabinet for many years.
  • He was known for his simplicity and commitment to his principles.
  • He played the role of a crisis-manager and asked the planners to focus greatly on agriculture and reorganised the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Challenges faced by Shastri when he became PM –

  • Within an year of resumption of office, Shastri proved himself as the most capable man.
  • President Ayub Khan of Pakistan started fermenting disturbances in Kashmir Valley and attacked in Chenab sector of Jammu (in September 1965 retaliation). India attacked on West Punjab and nearly captured Lahore.
  • Shastri became the war hero and gave the famous slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ to highlight the countries resolved to meet the challenges created by wars with Pakistan and China. Also in the same year due to failed monsoons there was severe drought which led to food shortages.
  • Shastri however did not live to see this development as he died in Tashkent capital of Uzbekistan after signing the Tashkent declaration with Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan on Jan 10th 1996 (after intervention of UNSC to end the war) to restore the ‘status quo’.
  • (Lal Bahadur Shastri was countries PM from 1964 to 1966. He gave the slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ with which he wanted people to remember that they had to overcome the food problem as well as meet the challenge to the integrity of the nation)

From Shastri to Indira Gandhi –

  • After Shastri’s death is Gulzarilal Nanda was the acting PM from 11th Jan to 24th Jan 1966.
  • Congress faced the challenge of political succession for the second time in two years.
  • There was intense competition between Morarji Desai and Indira Gandhi.
  • (Morarji Desai – served as CM of Bombay, also served as minister in Nehru’s cabinet, was respected for his integrity and discipline the life)
  • (Indira Gandhi – daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, had been the President of Congress party in 1958, had also been union Minister for information and broadcasting in the Shastri cabinet)
  • This time the senior leaders of the party or syndicate headed by K.Kamraj decided to back Indira Gandhi, who they thought would not carry much political weight and would be dependent on them for their support and guidance.
  • The decision however was not unanimous. The contest was resolved through a secret ballot among Congress MPs.
  • Indira Gandhi defeated Morarji by securing the support of more than two-third of the parties MPs (defeated Morarji by 355 votes to 169).
  • A peaceful transition of power, despite intense competition for leadership was seen as a sign of maturity of India’s democracy.
  • Within an year of becoming PM, Indira Gandhi had to lead the party in Lok Sabha elections and around this time the economic situation in the country had further deteriorated adding to her problems.
  • Faced with these difficulties she set out to gain control over the party and to demonstrate her leadership skills.

Fourth General Elections, 1967-

  • The year 1967 is considered as a landmark year in India’s political and electoral history.
  • The years leading up to 4th General election led to major challenges –
  • 1. Two PMs died in quick succession, first Nehru and then Shastri.
  • 2. The new PM Indira Gandhi was seen as novice and was in office for less than an year.
  • 3. The country faced serious economic crisis due to –
  • a) Successive failure of monsoons
  • b) Widespread drought
  • c) Decline in agricultural production
  • d) Decline in food storage
  • e) Depletion of foreign exchange reserve
  • f) Drop in industrial production and exports
  • g) Steep rise in military expenditure
  • h) Diversion of resources from planning and economic development
  • 4. On coming to power, Indira Gandhi devalued the rupee in order to encourage exports and discourage imports.
  • 5. Prices of all the commodities soared.
  • 6. There was inflation, food scarcity, growing unemployment and worsening economic condition.
  • 7. Bandhs and hartals were called frequently across the country. The government saw the protests as a law and order problem and not as expressions of people’s problems.
  • 8. This further increased public bitterness and reinforced popular unrest.
  • 9. This period also witnessed some of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots since independence.
  • 10. Factionalism and groupism in the Congress party became quite open.


  • The development in the country and within the Congress party (factionalism) made the opposition more united than before.
  • Opposition parties were in the forefront of organising public protests and pressurising the government.
  • Parties opposed to Congress realised that the division of their votes kept the Congress in power.
  • Thus parties that were entirely different and disparate in their programmes and ideology get together to form anti-Congress fronts in some states and entered into electoral adjustments of sharing seats in others.
  • The socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia give this strategy the name of ‘Non-Congressism’.
  • His argument in its defence was – 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 of 1967

  • The 1967 elections mark the decline of the Congress system.
  • The Congress was facing the electorate for the first time without Nehru.
  • The results jolted the Congress both at the national and the state level.
  • Elections were held for 520 seats out of which Congress got only 283 seats i.e. only 54% majority in Parliament.
  • These elections were described as ‘political earthquake’ by political observers.
  • Half the ministers in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet were defeated including Kamraj in Tamil Nadu, S.K. Patil in Maharashtra, Atulya Ghosh in West Bengal and K.B. Sahay in Bihar.
  • The Congress lost majority in as many as seven states and in two other states defection prevented Congress from forming the government.
  • Congress lost in – Punjab, Haryana, U.P. , M.P. , Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Madras (Tamil Nadu) and Kerala.
  • Madras, a regional party Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) came to power after having led a massive anti-Hindi agitation by students against the Centre on the issue of imposition of Hindi as the official language.

Coalitions –

  • The elections of 1967 gave birth to the concept of coalitions.
  • In 8 out of 9 states where Congress lost, coalition governments consisting of different non-Congress parties were formed.
  • As no one party could gain majority, several non-Congress parties came together to form a joint legislative forum known as Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (in Hindi) that supported non-Congress governments.
  • Thus, these coalitions were known as SVD governments.

Defections –

  • The post-1967 period saw an alarming increase in the number of defections in the country.
  • It played an important role in the making and unmaking of governments in the states after 1967 elections.
  • Defection means giving up membership of that political party to which a person belong or on whose ticket or symbol he or she contested an election and joined another party or group.
  • It also includes voting in the house contrary to the directions issued by the party.
  • Defection was responsible for the fall of several state governments between 1967 to 1968.
  • In Haryana, U.P., Bihar, West Bengal and Punjab mid–term elections were held in 1968 because of defection.
  • The constant shifting and realignment of political loyalties in this period gave rise to the expression ‘Aya Ram Gaya Ram’.
  • Lost 1967 elections due to defection in Haryana, M.P. and U.P.

Reasons for the decline and defeat of Congress in 1967 –

1) The absence of charismatic leader.
2) Faction and internal differences within the Congress.
3) Electoral alliances and increasing unity among the non-Congress parties.
4) Economic discontent.
5) Regional, ethnic and communal factors-in Punjab the Sikhs, in U.P. and Bihar Muslims were alienated from the Congress. Odisha and Rajasthan – the industrialist and princes were supporting the Swatantra party, in Assam and Odisha – tribals felt alienated from the Congress.
6) The syndicate became too powerful.

Syndicate and their Role

  • It was the informal name given to a group of Congress leaders who were in control of the parties organisation.
  • The parties ‘old guard’ were called syndicate that had taken a firm grip on the management of the party.
  • It was led by K. Kamaraj chief minister of Tamil Nadu and then the President of the Congress party. (1963-1966).
  • It included powerful leaders like S.K. Patil, N Sanjeeva Reddy, S. Nijalingappa, Atulya Ghosh etc.
  • Indira Gandhi and her position to the support she received from them during her elections as PM.
  • They also had say in Indira Gandhi’s first council of ministers and also in policy formulation and implementation.

Split in the Congress party

  • The challenge to Indira Gandhi came not from the opposition but from within her own party.
  • She had to deal with the ‘syndicate’, a group of powerful and influential leaders from within the Congress as they had expected that she would follow their advice but on the contrary she sidelined them and chose her new group of trusted advisors.
  • Indira Gandhi faced two challenges – to free herself from the clutches of the syndicate and work towards regaining the ground that the Congress had lost in the 1967 elections.
  • She converted the simple power struggle into ideological struggle.
  • She got the Congress working committee to adopt a Ten Point Programme in May 1967 which included social control (or nationalisation) of banks, nationalisation of general insurance, ceiling on urban property and income, public distribution of food grains, land reforms and provision of house sites to the rural poor.

Presidential Election, 1969 (immediate cause of the split)

  • 1969 Presidential election brought out the rivalry between the syndicate and Congress in open.
  • Indira Gandhi suggested the name of V.V.Giri the Vice President of India as Presidential candidate after the death of President Zakir Hussain in May 1969.
  • But the Congress Parliamentary Board selected and nominated her long time opponent and then Speaker of the Lok Sabha N. Sanjeeva Reddy, as the official Congress candidate.
  • Indira Gandhi retaliated by encouraging V.V.Giri to contest the Presidential election 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 ‘privy purse’ or the special privileges given to former princes.
  • Morarji Desai the deputy PM and Finance Minister left the government due to differences over this issue.
  • Congress President S. Nijalingappa issued a ‘whip’ asking all Congress MPs and MLAs to vote for N. Sanjeeva Reddy.
  • Indira Gandhi openly called for a ‘conscience vote’ which meant all the MPs and MLAs from the Congress should be free to vote the way they want.
  • V.V.Giri won the elections and became the President.
  • There emerged a conflict within the Congress and splitting of Congress into two groups-
              Congress (R) – Requistionists supporting Indira Gandhi (New Congress)
              Congress (O) – Organisation led by Syndicates (Old Congress)
  • Indira Gandhi projected the split as an ideological divide between socialist and conservatives, between pro-poor and pro-rich.

Abolition of Privy Purse

  • The integration of princely states was preceded by an assurance that after the dissolution of princely rule, the then ruler’s families would be allowed to retain certain property and would be given government allowance, measured on the basis of the extent, the venue and potential of the merging state.
  • This grant was called the Privy Purse.
  • These hereditary privileges were not consonant with the principles of equality and social and economic justice laid down in the Constitution of India.
  • Following the 1967 elections, Indira Gandhi supported the demand that the government should abolish the privy purses.
  • Morarji Desai has called the move ‘morally wrong’ because it amounted to making promises and then breaking them.
  • The government tried to bring a constitutional amendment in 1970, but it was not passed in Rajya Sabha.
  • It then it should Presidential ordinance which was declared null and void by the Supreme Court.
  • Indira Gandhi made this into a major election issue in 1971 and got a lot of public support.
  • Following its massive victory in the 1971 election, the Constitution was amended.
  • By the 26th amendment act 1971 the Privy Purses and privileges granted to the former rulers of the princely states were abolished.

The 1971 elections –

  • Indira Gandhi’s party got support of few other parties including Communist party of India, DMK, Muslim league and few independents.
  • During this period the government made conscious attempts to project its socialist credentials.
  • She basically wanted to strengthen her party’s position in Parliament, inter dependence on other political parties and seek popular mandate for her programs.
  • So she dissolved Lok Sabha in 1970 and fifth elections were held in 1971.

The Contest (Reasons for Congress victory in 1971 elections)

  • After forming Congress are the first thing Indira Gandhi did was to establish direct link with the electorate by passing the party.
  • Her party had an issue, and a gentle and positive slogan – Garibi Hatao.
  • She focused on the growth of public sector, imposition of ceiling on rural land holdings and urban property, removal of disparities in income and opportunity and abolition of Privy Purses.
  • Through Garibi Hatao she tried to generate support base among the disadvantaged, unemployed youth, Dalits, the Adivasis and women.
  • The main aim of the opposition party was ‘Indira Hatao’ and they formed the grand alliance of all the non-Congress parties.
  • India’s victory over Pakistan in 1971 war and her insistence to send back 10 million refugees back to Bangladesh increased their popularity to gains for Congress are in assembly elections in 1972.

The Outcome (Result of 1971 elections)

  • The results of the Lok Sabha elections of 1971 were as dramatic as was the decision to hold these elections.
  • The Congress (R) – CPI alliance won more seats and votes than the Congress had ever won in the first four general elections.
  • The combine won 375 seats in Lok Sabha, Indira Gandhi’s Congress R won 352 seats.
  • Indira Gandhi thus established herself firmly on the political map of India.
  • With two successive election victories one at the Centre and other at the state level, the dominance of the Congress was restored.

Restoration: Was the Congress system restored?

  • What Indira Gandhi did was not a restoration of Congress but re-invented the party.
  • The party had won earlier also and was popular but now it was a different party which relied on the charisma and popularity of its supreme leader.
  • This party lost its democratic character, did not have many factions and it could not accommodate diverse interests and opinions.
  • It depended more on some social groups: the poor, the women, Dalits, Adivasis, and the minorities.
  • Indira Gandhi restored the system by changing the nature of the Congress system itself.
  • Despite being more popular, the new Congress could not fulfil the aspirations of people and it led to new unrest and mobilisations threatening the constitutional democracy in India.
Challenges to and Restoration of the Congress System Class 12 Political Science Notes And Questions