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Class 12 Political Science Era of One-party Dominance Notes and Questions
Political parties are an indispensable part of present-day political system. In modern representative democracy, political party in one form or another is omnipresent in the political process. The phenomenon of party is closely linked with the growth of complexity of political systems in which the notion of political power has come to include the idea of mass public must participate.
Challenge of building democracy
- Democracy was the legacy of Indian national movement. The leaders of newly independent India were deeply committed to the idea of democracy. Our leaders were conscious of the critical role of politics in any democracy. They did not see politics as a problem; they saw it as a way of solving the problem. While competition and power are the two most visible things about politics, the purpose of political activity is and should be deciding and pursuing public interest.
- The election commission of India was set up in January 1950, Sukumar Sen became the Chief Election Commissioner.
- Our Constitution was ready and signed on 26 November 1949 and it came into effect on 26 January 1950.
Congress dominance in the first three general elections
- The first three general elections were held in 1952, 1957, and 1962. The 1952 elections saw a large mass of ignorant and illiterate mass responding to elections. This era was characterised by the monopoly of Congress at the Centre along with the existence of smaller opposition parties.
- Indian National Congress won the first elections with 364 of the 489 seats and finished way ahead of any other challenger.
- INC win was due to its legacy of the national movement.
- The Communist party of India that came next in terms of seats won only 16 seats.
- Even state elections took place after the Lok Sabha elections and there also Congress emerged as winner in all the states except Travancore-Cochin, Madras and Orissa but later in these states also Congress government was formed.
- In the State assembly elections, the Congress did not get majority in a few cases and one of the most significant was in Kerala where Communist party formed the government in 1957.
- Likewise in 1962 elections, Congress got over 44.7% votes and over that 73% of the seats. There was a wide gap in the popular vote share and seat share of Congress and other opposition parties.
- In the second and the third general elections held in 1957 and 1962 respectively Congress maintained the same position in Lok Sabha by winning three-fourth seats.
Reasons for Congress dominance in first three elections
The Indian National Congress had unique political accomplishments. The principles guided the nation. The Congress dominated the Indian political scenario from 1947 to 1967. The factors responsible for its dominance included:
1. Inheritance of the national movement – The Congress party had inherited the vast and enriched legacy from the national movement. Many leaders who were in the forefront of the freedom struggle were now contesting as Congress candidates in the elections. These leaders had already won the confidence of the people. Congress was seen as a party that brought freedom to the country.
2. Charismatic personality of the Prime Minister – In Jawaharlal Nehru the party had the most popular and charismatic leader in Indian politics. He led the campaign and toured through the country.
3. Well organised party with first off the block advantage – It was a well organised party and had first off the block advantage. By the time the other parties could think of a strategy the Congress had already started its campaign. It had an organisational network down to the local level, which made it a grassroot party well connected to the people.
4. Coalition of all social and economic classes – It was a mass political party bringing into its fold diverse social and economic classes – peasants and industrialist, urban dwellers and villagers, workers and owners, middle, lower and upper classes and castes.
5. Coalition of different ideologies and beliefs – Many ideological groups merged their identities with Congress. It accommodated revolutionists and pacifists, conservatives and radicals, extremists and moderates and right, left and all other shades of the country.
6. Congress performance in the first three elections – The extent of victory of the Congress in the first three general elections was phenomenal. None of the opposition parties could win even a 10th of the number of seats won by Congress.
7. Management of Conflicts and Factions – Because of its coalition like nature Congress avoided taking any extreme position and strike a balance on almost all issues. It successfully accommodated all the factions. Anything that the opposition wanted to say already found a place in Congress.
- Nature of Congress dominance/ How one-party dominance in India was different from the one-party dominance in other countries?
- India is not the only country to have experienced the dominance of one party but the dominance of Congress is different from one party dominance elsewhere in the world.
- In some countries dominance of one party was ensured by compromising democracy.
- In countries like China, Cuba and Syria the constitution permits only a single party to rule the country.
- Some others like Egypt, Myanmar, Belarus, etc are effectively one party states due to legal and military measures.
- In Mexico PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) dominated for almost six decades. But during this period most of the times undemocratic means were used by the PRI to win elections. Elections were not free and fair.
- In contrast to all the above countries Congress exercised dominance totally under democratic conditions.
- Many parties contested elections in conditions of free and fair elections and yet the Congress managed to win election after election.
- The roots of this extraordinary success of the Congress party go back to the legacy of freedom struggle, well-knit organisation and adjustment to circumstances.
- It made the Congress the dominant party in a democratic system as opposed to monopoly of one parties in other states like China, Cuba etc.
Communist victory in Kerala
- In the State assembly elections Congress did not get majority in few states. As early as in 1957, the Congress party had the bitter taste of defeat in Kerala.
- The Communist Party won the largest number of seats in Kerala legislature.
- The party won 160 of the 126 seats and had the support of 5 Independents.
- The Governor invited E.M.S Namboodiripad the leader of the Communist Legislature party to form the ministry.
- First time in the world, a Communist party government had come to power through democratic elections.
- The CPI had come to power on the promise of carrying out radical and progressive policy measures.
- In 1959, the Congress government at the Centre dismissed the Communist government in Kerala under article 356 of the Constitution. This decision became controversial and is said to be the first misuse of the Constitutional provision.
Case of Mexico
- Mexico party named Revolutionary party and later renamed as the Institutional Revolutionary party was founded in 1929, and remained in power for 6 decades.
- Originally PRI was a mixture of various interests including political and military leaders, labour and peasant organisations and numerous political parties.
- Over a period of time Plutarco Elias Calles, the founder of PRI was able to capture the organisation and thereby the government.
- Elections were held regularly and it was PRI which won every time because they manipulated the electoral laws.
- Elections were often rigged and manipulated by the ruling party.
- Finally the party lost in the Presidential elections held in 2000 and Mexico is no longer one-party dominated country.
Congress as social and ideological coalition
- Congress had emerged as a pressure group of the intellectuals, professionals andcommercial classes in the 20th century. The Congress began as a party dominated by the English speaking upper caste, upper middle class and urban elite. But with every civil disobedience movement it launched, its social base widened.
- It brought together diverse groups, whose interests were often contradictory.
- Peasants and industrialists, urban developers and villages, workers and owners, middle, lower and upper classes and castes, all found space in the Congress.
- Gradually its leadership also expanded beyond the upper caste professionals to agriculture-based leaders with the rural orientation.
- By the time of independence the Congress was transformed into a rainbow like social coalition broadly representing India’s diversity.
- Many of these groups merged their identity within the Congress.
- The Congress was an ideological coalition in the sense that it accommodated revolutionary and pacifist, conservative and radical, extremist and moderate and the right, left and all shades of the Centre.
- The Congress was a platform for numerous groups, interests and even political parties to take part in the national movement.
Tolerance and management of factions by the Congress
- The coalition-like character of the Congress gave it an unusual strength. The advantages of the coalition are:
- Firstly, 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 the hallmarks of a coalition which puts the opposition in a difficulty.
- In a party that has the nature of coalition there is a greater tolerance of internal differences and ambitions of various groups and leaders are accommodated.
- The Congress did both these things during the freedom struggle and continued doing this even after independence.
What are Factions?
- The various groups inside the party are called factions.
- The coalition nature of the Congress party tolerated and in fact encourage various factions.
Why factions added strength to Congress?
- Instead of being a weakness, internal factionalism became a strength of the Congress.
- Most of the state units of the Congress were made up of numerous factions.
- The factions took different ideological positions making the Congress appear as a grand centrist party.
- The other parties primarily attempted to influence these factions and thereby indirectly influence policy and decision making from the ‘margins’.
- The system of factions functioned as a balancing mechanism within the ruling party.
- Political competition took place within the Congress and therefore Congress acted as both the ruling party as well as the opposition.
- That is why this period of Indian politics has been described as the ‘Congress system’.
Emergence and role of Opposition parties
India had a number of political parties at the time of Independence. Though these parties did not have much electoral gains, they were quite vibrant. Most of these parties had been active before 1952 only. Some of these parties played an important role in the politics of the country in the 60s and 70s.
1. Token representation – All these opposition parties succeeded in gaining only a token representation in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies during this period. Yet their presence played a crucial role in maintaining the democratic character of the system.
2. Sustained and principled opposition – These parties offered a sustained and often principled criticism of the policies and practises of the Congress party. This kept the ruling party under check and often changed the balance of power within the Congress. By keeping democratic political alternative alive, these parties prevented the resentment with the system from turning anti-democratic.
3. Groomed future political leaders – These parties also groomed the leaders who were to play a crucial role in the shaping of our country.
4. Mutual respect between leaders of Congress and opposition parties – In the early years there was a lot of mutual respect between the leaders of the Congress and those of the opposition.
MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES AND THEIR IDEOLOGY
1) SOCIALIST PARTY:
- The Congress Socialist Party was formed within the Congress in 1934 by a group of young leader who wanted more radical and egalitarian Congress.
- In 1948, the congress amended its constitution to prevent its members from having a dual membership. This forced the Socialists to form separate Socialist Party in 1948.
- SYMBOL – Tree
- FOUNDER – Acharya Narendra Dev
- YEAR – 1948
- OTHER LEADERS – Jayaprakash Narayan, Achyut patwardhan, Asoka
- Mehta, Rammanohar Lohia, S. M. Joshi
- Thus this first phase of democratic politics in our country was quite unique.
- The inclusive character of the national movement led by the Congress enabled it to attract different sections, groups and interests, making it a broad based social and ideological coalition.
- The key role of the Congress in the freedom struggle thus give it a head start over others.
- The socialists believed in the ideology of democratic socialism which distinguished the them both from the Congress as well as from the Communists.
- They criticised the Congress for favouring capitalist and landlords and for ignoring the workers and peasants.
- The socialist party went through many splits and reunion leading to the formation of many socialist parties like Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party, the Praja Socialist Party and Samyukta Socialist Party.
2) THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF INDIA:
- In the early 1920s communist groups emerged in different parts of India taking inspiration from the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and advocating socialism as a solution to problem affecting the country.
- From 1935, the communists worked mainly from within the fold of the Indian National Congress.
- A parting of the ways took place in December 1941, when the Communists decided the support the British in the war against Nazi Germany.
- Unlike other non-Congress parties the CPI and had a well-oiled party machinery and dedicated cadre at the time of independence.
- SYMBOL – Sickle and Paddy
- FOUNDER – M.N. Roy
- YEAR – 1925
- OTHER LEADERS – A. K. Gopalan, S.A. Dang, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, P.C.
- Joshi, Ajay Ghosh, P. Sundarraya
- Communists believed that the transfer of power in 1947 was not true independence and encouraged violent uprisings in Telangana,
- In 1951 the Communist Party abandoned the path of violent revolution and decided to participate in the approaching general elections.
- In the first general election CPI won 16 seats and emerged as the largest opposition party.
- The parties support was more concentrated in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Kerala.
- The party went through a major split in 1954 following the ideological rift between Soviet Union and China. The pro-Soviet faction remained as CPI, while the opponents form the CPI(M).
3) BHARATIYA JANA SANGH:
- Bharatiya Jan Sangh’s lineage can be traced back to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) and Hindu Mahasabha before independence.
- The Bharatiya Janta Party traces its roots to the Bharatiya Jana Sangha.
- SYMBOL – Diya
- FOUNDER PRESIDENT – Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
- YEAR – 1951
- OTHER LEADERS – Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Balraj Madhok
- It emphasized the idea of one country, one culture one nation and believed that the country could become modern, progressive and strong on the basis of Indian culture and traditions.
- The party called for a reunion of India and Pakistan in Akhand Bharat.
- The party was in forefront of the agitation to replace English with Hindi as the official language of India and was also opposed to the granting of concessions to religious and cultural minorities.
- It also advocated India developing nuclear weapons.
4) SWATANTRA PARTY:
The party stood out from others in terms of its position on economic issues.
SYMBOL – Star
FOUNDER – C. Rajagopalachari
YEAR – 1959 (after the Nagpur resolution of Congress which called for land ceilings)
OTHER LEADERS – C. Rajagopalachari, K.M. Munshi, N.G. Ranga, Minoo Masani
- Wanted the government to be less and less involved in controlling the economy.
- It believes that prosperity could come only through individual freedom.
- Was critical of the development strategy of state intervention in the economy, centralised planning, nationalization and public sector.
- Critical of the policy of non-alignment and maintaining friendly relations with Soviet Union and closer ties with USA.
- It was against land ceiling in agriculture and cooperative farming and state trading.
- Also against progressive tax regime and demanded dismantling of the licensing regime.