In this essay we will discuss about opposition in Indian politics. After reading this essay you will learn about: 1. Role of Opposition in Indian Politics 2. Opposition before Fourth General Elections 3. Fourth General Elections and the Opposition 4. Fifth General Elections and the Opposition (1971) 5. Imposition of Emergency and Opposition Parties 6. 1977 Elections and Emergence of Janata Party and Other Details.
List of Essays on Opposition in Indian Politics
- Essay on the Role of Opposition in Indian Politics
- Essay on the Opposition before Fourth General Elections
- Essay on the Fourth General Elections and Opposition
- Essay on the Fifth General Elections and Opposition (1971)
- Essay on the Imposition of Emergency and Opposition Parties
- Essay on the 1977 Elections and Emergence of Janata Party
- Essay on the Formation of Janata Dal
- Essay on the Causes Responsible for Non-Unity of Opposition Parties
- Essay on the Changed Position after 1996 Elections
1. Essay on the Role of Opposition in Indian Politics:
India is a parliamentary democracy and for its success it is very essential that the opposition political parties should be strong and powerful. It should be ready to provide viable alternative to the ruling party and should have good alternatives to provide both in policies and personnel.
It should be well organised and resourceful enough to immediately bring to the notice of the electorates the weaknesses and shortcomings of the ruling party. In fact, for the ruling party it should be a good check. The government should always remember that the every failure of the ruling party will immediately come to the notice of the people who may not return the party in power.
But unfortunately in India since independence opposition parties have remained in wilderness. These have failed to win the confidence of the people. Even if the voters in some cases gave electoral mandate in their favour, after some time they realised their mistake because these parties for various reasons could not pull on together.
Since the last about 25 years efforts are being made by the opposition parties to come together and provide alternative leadership and viable programmes but every such attempt has miserably failed.
Janata experiment between 1977-79 was the first successful experiment but the fate to which it met is quite well known. In 1989 opposition political parties came closer to some extent and could defeat the Congress (I) at the centre, as a result of elections held in that year.
But again these badly dismayed the people and these parties could remain in power only for about a year. In the states S.V.D. governments could not pull on together and these disappointed the electorates.
2. Essay on the Opposition before Fourth General Elections:
In 1947, British government transferred power to Indian National Congress which had played a very significant role in India’s freedom struggle. At that time it was the only well organised political party in the country. The Muslim League which had been challenging its authority played its role by getting the country divided on the basis of two nations theory and thus was no longer on the scene.
The Communists had no roots in India and there was no well organised political party on the scene. Not only this, but the party had in its fold top ranking national leaders of those days for whom the whole nation had the highest regard. Till 1967, the party had full command both at the centre as well as in the states.
In the country there was single dominant party system. Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerjee of course founded Bhartiya Jana Sangh and both the Communists and the socialists tried to organise themselves but these were not much success to challenge authority and supremacy of the Congress party.
During first general elections to the Lok Sabha Jana Sangh could get only three seats, the number rose to four during second election and to 18 during third general elections. The Communists could get 16, 27 and 29 seats respectively in the first, second and third Lok Sabha general elections. The position was in no way better for the Socialists, who in no election could win more than 20 Lok Sabha seats.
The popularity of the Congress party can be well imagined when one finds that during the general elections the party won 364 seats in the Lok Sabha in a House of 489. During the second general elections in a House of 404 the party won 371 seats whereas its strength was 358 in a House of 491 after third general elections were held for the Lok Sabha.
During this period the Socialists were led by Ashok Mehta and veteran leaders like C. Rajagopalachari and Minoo Masani left the Congress.
They formed a new political party known as Swatantra Party. One another significant feature was that the communists could form their government in Kerala in 1957, thus, registering their entry in Indian politics. Then another feature of this period was that the number of seats won by the Congress was much more than the percentage of votes polled by it.
Thus, whereas after each general election the party had a two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha but percentage of votes polled by it was always less than even 50 per cent.
3. Essay on the Fourth General Elections and Opposition:
At the end of Third Lok Sabha the situation was considerably favourable for the opposition to consolidate its position and provide an alternative to the ruling Congress. The situation was unfavourable for the ruling party. During the period prices of essential commodities had reached sky high, which was a matter of concern for all. Inflationary tendencies were quite visible.
The people had not forgotten India’s defeat at the hands of China in 1962. There were wide spread accusations of corruptions and scandals against those holding high political offices and Ministers of the central government and state governments were no exception to it. Nehru who was towering personality of the party was no longer there.
The nation had also not forgotten India’s disgrace at Rabat where nation’s representative Fakhuruddin Ali Ahamed was not allowed to attend Muslin nations conference. Many regional political parties also began to get their foot holds in their respective states.
It was in these circumstances that fourth general elections were held in the country. Congress received serious set back. Its strength in the Lok Sabha went down to 279 in the House of 515. It could get only 37.87 per cent votes polled.
Soon after when elections for the state Assemblies were held at the party received a serious set back and it lost majority in several states like U.P., Punjab, Orissa, Bihar and M.P., etc. Thus, monolithic character of the party received serious set back.
The opposition got good opportunity to come forward and provide a viable alternative to ruling Congress. Opposition parties formed governments in some states by coming together, thus, raising many hopes in the minds of the people about future political set up of the country. But coalition experiment miserably failed. These parties in no state could provide stable government.
These even could not chalk out a common programme of action. No national leader to be followed by all political parties emerged. There were frequent political defections, thus, bringing uncertainty in administration. Political and bureaucratic corruption very much increased. All hopes of the people from the opposition parties were completely belied and these parties lost the confidence of the masses.
In between fourth and fifth general elections came split in the Congress party itself by which Congress got divided into two. Important political leaders of the party left Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, reducing her government to a minority government. It was another good opportunity for the opposition to exploit and capture power both at the centre as well as in the states.
Again, however, the parties failed and preferred to remain in wilderness rather than to come together under a banner.
During this period another important development was that regional political parties were formed and those which were already in existence became very active. Thus, making the task of opposition unity very difficult. Each regional leader wanted to occupy the highest position in the combined opposition set up. None was willing to accept the other as superior.
4. Essay on the Fifth General Elections and Opposition (1971):
Fifth general elections in the country were held at a time when Congress party was politically divided and the opposition was completely disorganised. There was no unity among the opposition and regionalism was on the increase. Each regional leader wanted to have his own kingdom in his state. Nation was almost forgotten.
The elections were held ahead of the schedule. Some opposition parties like Congress (O), SSP, Swatantra Party, Jana Sangh, etc., tried to come together and formed National Democratic Front against the Congress, but failed to give any convincing common programme to the electorates.
Whereas Congress (I) gave the appealing slogan of Garibi Hatao, the opposition failed to come out with any solid alternative. More than that the voters had not forgotten the failure of opposition parties in the states, where these could not provide stable government anywhere. The Congress (I) was returned to power in the Lok Sabha where it got 350 seats in the House of 515.
Attempt for Unity, 1973:
Some opposition parties made another attempt to come together in 1973. These included Jana Sangh, DMK, Congress (O) and Swatantra Party. These also tried to prepare a common programme of action but could not make much headway.
In April 1974, BKD leader Charan Singh could bring eight political parties i.e., BKD, the Swatantra Party, SSP, Bhartiya Khetihar Sangh, etc., to come together and the new party was named as Bhartiya Lok Dal.
The new party promised clean administration and decentralisation of economic and political powers. It also promised raising of living standard of the people. The new party was inaugurated in August, 1974. Efforts were made to bring Jan Sangh and Socialist parties in the folds of the new party but efforts failed.
The opposition parties extended their co-operation to each other and criticised Congress government policies both inside and outside the Parliament on several issues. These also worked in close co-operation in several state Assemblies particularly in the states of U.P., Bihar, Punjab, Orissa, Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka.
These followed obstructionist policies. Morarji Desai went on fast unto death to get Gujarat state Assembly dissolved.
In the meantime late Jai Prakash Narayan formed an organisation called Citizens for Democracy which aimed at protecting civil liberties of the people. Some opposition parties suggested him to lead a united opposition party.
He, in turn appealed to the opposition parties to come closer to each other. He also started a student agitation in Bihar and gave a call for total revolution. He appealed for direct action and removal of Congress government both at the centre as well as in the states.
J.P. Movement considerably helped opposition parties in coming closer and nearer to each other. Government was forced to dissolve Gujarat Legislative Assembly. It was at this time that some opposition parties formed Janata Front consisting of Jan Sangh, Congress (O), BLD, the Socialist Party and the Republication Party.
Muslim league which had joined the Front earlier withdrew from it after some time. The Front won Gujarat Assembly elections and formed government in the state. Encouraged by this opposition parties tried to form Fronts in other states as well.
5. Essay on the Imposition of Emergency and Opposition Parties:
It was under these circumstances that Allahabad High Court declared election of Mrs. Indira Gandhi as invalid. Demand was made by opposition parties about her resignation. Serious law and order situation was created and in 1975 emergency was declared in the country.
All opposition leaders were put behind the bars and as such there was practically no political activity in the country in so far as opposition unity is concerned. It was, however, during this period that Jai Prakash Narayan thought of making efforts of inviting opposition parties and bringing them on a common platform.
6. Essay on the 1977 Elections and Emergence of Janata Party:
After the emergency was lifted, due to un-retiring efforts of Jai Prakash Narayan Congress (O), Jan Sangh, Socialist Party and BLD were united and a new party called Janata Party came into being on 23rd January, 1977, with Morarji Desai as its Chairman and Charan Singh as its Deputy Chairman.
These parties merged together on 30th April, 1977 and was formally inaugurated on, 1.5.1977. Subsequently Congress for Democracy headed by Jag Jiwan Ram also joined it.
The party contested 1977 general elections to the Lok Sabha and secured two-thirds majority. Subsequently when 9 Congress ruled state Assemblies were dissolved and elections were held, and Janata Party miserably defeated the Congress. In fact, the party wiped out the Congress from North India. It was victory of unity of opposition.
But again the opposition parties failed to come up to the expectations of the people. There were internal feuds and some leaders became over ambitious. The opposition parties could not hold together and after about 29 months these failed. There were defections in the party and all that was gained after great labour, was lost.
The little hope which the voters had from the opposition unity was lost. The events leading to this disintegration have been discussed separately.
In 1980 and 1984 elections were again held in the country but on both the occasions Congress party came to power with a massive majority in the Lok Sabha and in many states as well. But opposition parties continued and still continue to make efforts for opposition unity.
In May 1983, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desham leader, called a convention of opposition parties at Vijayawada which was attended by fourteen opposition parties.
The conclave was important because these leaders could issue a joint statement stressing that Mrs. Gandhi’s government was posing serious threat to the unity and integrity of the country. On June 30,1983 opposition parties met at New Delhi. The meeting was attended by 16 political parties and all held government responsible for explosive situation in Punjab. The BJP, however, did not attend the conference.
In August 1983 BJP and Lok Dal joined hands and formed National Democratic Alliance. It elected Charan Singh as its Chairman. In a bid to provide national alternative a new united front consisting of Janata Party, Congress (S), Democratic Socialist Party and Rashtriya Congress was founded. Since several important leaders were in this Front it was hoped that the Front parties will win the confidence of the people.
Meantime Mrs. Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her own body guards and when elections for the Lok Sabha were held in 1984 all sympathies were in favour of her son Rajiv Gandhi, who had taken over Prime Ministership of the country. In spite of their best efforts opposition parties could not show any good performance. Congress (I) was returned to power at the centre with three-fourths majority. This gave further set back to opposition unity.
The opposition parties, however, continued to make effort for unity. By this time some regional parties which were opposed to Congress (I) had come to power in some states. In Bengal Communist leader Jyoti Basu, in Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desham under N.T. Rama Rao, in Asam Gana Parishad under Prafulla Kumar Mohanta extended their support to these efforts.
After 1984 elections, the opposition parties got morale boosting when these parties won election in Haryana where Lok Dal and BJP combined defeated the Congress (I) in State Assembly elections. DMK won an impressive victory in Tamil Nadu. These parties also won several by-elections. The opposition also got morale boosting when V.P. Singh and some other senior Congress leaders and Ministers resigned from the government and the party.
7. Essay on the Formation of Janata Dal:
Opposition unity received a new lease of life when opposition leader and Haryana Chief Minister Devi Lal, decided to merge Lok Dal with Janata Party to form a new party called Janata Dal. Some other opposition parties which did not like to end their identity but were keen about opposition unity formed National Front.
It was joined by Janata Dal, Telugu Desham and Communists (CPM) CPI and Jan Morcha of V.P. Singh. The Front aims at providing viable alternative to Congress (I) both at the centre as well as in the states. The opposition i.e parties of National Front and Janata Dal could come to an understanding with each other.
These parties decided to put up one candidate against Congress (I) candidate in each constituency during the election to the Lok Sabha to be held in November, 1989. The opposition at this stage showed remarkable sense of unity. These worked with considerable sense of responsibility and did not get their votes divided.
Combined together these defeated Congress (I) and dislodged the party from power at the centre. But unfortunately people’s hopes again dashed to the ground when V.P. Singh government had to go out of power after about a year.
But opposition unity is still very much evading the opposition leaders. At every stage it is under heavy strains. Because of past experiences the people do not pin any high hopes on any move of national unity of the opposition parties.
As a result of elections held in 1991 B.J.P. emerged the largest opposition party and in both the Houses of Parliament its members were leader of the opposition. It is, however, unfortunate that other opposition parties showed not willingness to cooperate with it.
These even did not unite on common issues. National Front was also in no good position. Its Chairman Late N.T. Rama Rao’s position considerably weakened during his life time because of split in his T.D. party and his ouster from the government of Andhra pradesh as Chief Minister.
There were splits and splits in the Lok Dal because of personality clashes and policy implementation differences. Thus, solidarity of opposition parties on ideological and policy basis in India does not appear to be in sight.
8. Essay on the Causes Responsible for Non-Unity of Opposition Parties:
Opposition parties are very keen to unite and very well realise that if these come together the chances of the Congress (I) party from authority and power cannot be ruled out. These leaders are also quite conscious that the strength of the Congress (I) lies in their weakness. But in spite of their realisation and maturity several attempts made for unity of opposition parties have failed. For this several causes are responsible.
Some such causes are as under:
(1) In spite of their best efforts these parties have not been able to produce a common programme of action which is considered by the people as better alternative to existing Congress (I) programmes and policies.
(2) In spite of their mergers these parties do not forget their individual identity and always think of their erstwhile party while distributing offices and positions in the party and the government.
(3) The parties have failed to produce a leader to whom these are willing to extend their unqualified co-operation and whose decisions are acceptable to them all.
(4) Most of the parties which talk of opposition unity are regional nature and in many cases these are even caste based. These are not prepared throw away their caste and regional base in the fear of losing their hold in states politics.
(5) Being caste and region base these parties many a time fail to reconcile their caste, class and regional interests, which quite often clash with each other and stand on the way of their political unity.
(6) Some of these parties feel that these are too secular where as the others are too communal. The former are not prepared to have their link with the latter and the latter too are not prepared to have any dealings with the former. Thus, secular-communal controversy keeps them away from their basic objective opposition unity.
(7) In India there is multi-party system in which in addition to regional; parties, there are local parties as well and it is an uphill task to unite these all as one single party.
(8) The then ruling Congress (I) party also indirectly encouraged division among opposition parties because in opposition’s disunity laid its their strength.
(9) Opposition parties themselves did not remain united. As soon as there was some unity or merger move, the party itself got divided and only a part joined a new party.
(10) It is unfortunate that in India there has been too much a craze for remaining in focus as a leader of some political party. As soon as a leader in a particular party finds less chances of his having some important office in the proposed new arrangement, he leaves the party and begins to criticise his old colleagues, either forms a new party or joins some other party and thus weakens unity move.
If political parties in India wish that these should unite and provide a viable alternative to ruling Congress for that they will have to give up their rigid stand which they are at present taking. They will have to give up the policy of ‘touch me not’. On the other hand they will have to be accommodative and flexible.
They will have to chalk out some common programme of action and convince the electorates that they are prepare to implement that with all sincerity. Since hopes of the people have already been belied both at the centre as well as in the states, therefore, the confidence of masses will have to be won by all by working in close cooperation both earnestly and sincerely.
9. Essay on the Changed Position after 1996 Elections:
The position however, has changed after 1996 Lok Sabha general elections. BJ.P. which was major opposition party in the tenth Lok Sabha, emerged as the single largest party in the eleventh Lok Sabha and on the invitation of President Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, its leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the government.
Thus opposition of tenth Lok Sabha became ruling party of eleventh Lok Sabha. Congress (I) which was ruling party in the tenth Lok Sabha, could at that time get 135 seats in the eleventh Lok Sabha emerged as the second largest party and its leader and former Prime Minister P. V. Narshmiha Rao because leader of the opposition.
But this situation lasted for less than two weeks. Almost all political parties both national and regional decided not to extend their support to B.J.P. ruled minority government. Several of these combined together and formed a United Front. B J.P government could not win vote of confidence and Atal Bihari Vajpayee resigned as Prime Minister. Thus from the ruling party B.J.P. once again became opposition party.
In a bid to keep B.J.P. out of party, several parties, which in the tenth Lok Sabha sat in opposition showed a rare sense of unity. These included CPI, CPM, Janta Dal, S.P; Congress (Tivvari), AGP; Forward Block; TDP; TMC; TDP (Naidu), DMK to mention among others decided to form a United Front. It was extended outside support by Congress (I) headed by P.V. Narsimha Rao, and formed government at the Centre with H.D. Dev Gowda as Prime Minister. Thus opposition parties of tenth Lok Sabha became government parties in the eleventh Lok Sabha. Congress (I) lost the status of even major opposition party in the eleventh Lok Sabha.