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Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation

  Indira Gandhi

On Nehru’s death in May 1964, Gulzari Lal Nanda, the senior-most minister in his Cabinet, was made the interim Prime Minister. Even during Nehru’s last days, some of the powerful Central and state leaders of the Party had formed themselves into an informal group evidently with a view to guiding and directing the Congress politics in the post-Nehru era. This group came to be known as the Syndicate. It initially consisted of K. Kamaraj, N. Sanjiva Reddy, S. Nijalingappa, Atulya Ghosh and S.K. Patil. Subsequently, C.B. Gupta and quite a few other leaders joined it. Barring Kamaraj, the rest were conservatives. Morarji Desai, known for his conservative ideas, also moved closer to the Syndicate at a later stage. There were many names that were discussed, but the choice was narrowed down to Morarji Desai and Lal Bahadur Shastri.
The Shastri Era
Kamaraj, who was then the Congress President, consulted the members of the Congress Working Committee, state Chief Ministers, the Deputy Leader and Chief Whip of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) and eight other leaders to decide the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party. There was a broad consensus in favour of Lal Bahadur Shastri. He became the Prime Minister on 2 June 1964. Indira Gandhi became the Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

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 An experienced minister in Nehru’s cabinet, Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first choice of the party leadership to resolve intra-party conflicts. Though India had taken giant strides, a lot was yet to be done for socioeconomic development if the objectives of self-reliance, eradication of poverty, removal of illiteracy and promotion of health were to be achieved. A hostile China continued to be a threat at the borders. Shastri affirmed his commitment to the principles of socialism and turned his attention to the task of reinvigorating rural society. 

The land reforms proposed by the Congress in the 1950s had still to be fully implemented and rural economy was still underdeveloped. Shastri took forward the process of technological development of Indian agriculture—the Green Revolution—the foundations for which had been laid in the Nehru period. This was to lead India transforming herself from a food deficient country to a food surplus country in a short period under Indira Gandhi’s leadership.
Even as Shastri was engaged in tackling economic problems, Pakistan launched military action to take over certain border areas in Gujarat, and followed it up with a full-scale war in the autumn of 1965. Shastri demonstrated to the world that India could defend its territory with the modest resources at her command. The aggression by Pakistan was effectively checked.

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 The Indian troops even crossed over to Pakistani territory near Lahore. However, the hostilities ceased after a while, following pleas for amicable settlement by a number of countries. The Soviet Union brought the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan together at a conference in Tashkent in 1966 to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement. While the country was rejoicing over the triumph of Shastri and the leadership he provided to the Indian defence forces, news came of his death in Tashkent on 10 January 1966.

G.L. Nanda was again made interim Prime Minster to get time to choose another leader. The exercise proved to be more difficult now than in 1964. The ideological differences between the various groups in the party were sharper. The conservatives within the party looked upon Morarji Desai as the most appropriate choice. The radical elements, on the other hand, preferred Indira Gandhi. 
The preference was not merely because she was the daughter of Nehru. Earlier, in 1959, she had been the President of the Congress and at that time had demonstrated her political skills. In the Shastri Cabinet, she had served as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting. The two groups openly canvassed for their respective candidates. Kamaraj, as the Congress President, preferred Indira Gandhi. As one wedded to socialistic ideas, Kamaraj did not like to have Morarji Desai, known for his conservative policies, as the head of the government.

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 However, Kamaraj did not follow the “consensus” method now. He allowed the CPP to choose their leader by a battle of the ballot. Indira Gandhi was chosen as the leader of CPP defeating Morarji Desai, receiving 355 votes as against Desai’s 169. She became the Prime Minister at the age of 48.

Challenges before Indira
The challenges she faced were many. She tackled the Punjab problem by accepting the demand for a Punjabi suba. She also accepted the Naga rebels’ demand for autonomy. The economic situation demanded attention. Economic recession prevailed and drought worsened the situation further. The drought and famine situation was handled effectively but one of the measures taken to resolve the economic plight proved to be counter-effective. This was the devaluation of the rupee by 35.5 per cent. 
It failed to increase exports and attract foreign capital. The Green Revolution, a strategy of introducing high-yield seeds and fertilizers in order to jump-start a sharp rise in food production, was taken forward in her time. Between 1967-68 and 1970-71, food grain production rose by 35 per cent. India was no longer seen as standing with a begging bowl before the Western countries and successive droughts were handled without foreign aid.

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 Foreign policy was another field which demanded application of a new approach. For example, the United States used its position as a supplier of financial aid, food and capital investment to India to twist India’s arm towards taking a pro-US line on Vietnam. However, she went ahead to decry the US bombing of Vietnam. In addition, Indira Gandhi chose to develop links with the Soviet Union in order to build a counter-alliance to the US-China-Pakistan axis. 

Two features of the political system were a source of great trouble for Indira Gandhi. One was the decline of Parliament as an institution. Members of Parliament took to undisciplined behaviour and she was often the target of attack. The party was another trouble spot, beset with groupism and factionalism. Her own position in the party was not secure. Though she was the Prime Minister, the important portfolios were held by leaders not chosen by her.
Indira Gandhi had hardly taken the reins of office when the country went in for General Elections. Apart from the factionalism within the Congress, this was the period of extreme “anti-Congressism” where opposition parties of completely divergent views and ideologies joined hands to form anti-Congress fronts. Lohiaites, socialists, communal Jan Sangh, communists, the right wing Swatantra Party, Akalis etc., all made opportunistic alliances against the Congress.

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  As a result, the Congress Party suffered an unexpected defeat at the polls in Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal, Orissa, Madras and Kerala, besides securing a reduced majority in the Lok Sabha. The vote share of the party went down to 41 per cent while the number of seats now stood at 284 seats in a house of 520. The worst aspect was that the decline in the states had now reached the Centre. If one analyses the election results in terms of social groups, it was evident that the rich and middle peasants had deserted the Congress.

The poor electoral performance of the party again brought up the issue of leadership. The Syndicate was critical of the “dismal performance” of the Government under Indira Gandhi’s leadership. Secondly, her style of functioning as the Prime Minister of India seemed to have offended Kamaraj and his colleagues. One of the factors that strengthened the position of Indira Gandhi was the near rout of the Syndicate leaders in the general elections. The only prominent Syndicate leader elected was Sanjiva Reddy. 
She had been the star and the only all-India campaigner and vote-catcher for the Congress. Her unchallenged leadership of the Congress parliamentary party (CPP) was now established giving her a free hand in forming a Cabinet and deciding the portfolios.

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As on the past two occasions, Morarji Desai was an aspirant for the Prime Ministership. But a contest was averted and he was offered the position of Deputy Prime Minister which he accepted. However, this was merely a formal position without any real authority. This time, a pressure group in the CPP, backed by the Congress President Kamaraj, a few Chief Ministers and some members of the Congress Working Committee saw to it that Indira Gandhi was made the Prime Minister.
Mid-term polls took place in four states in February 1969 and the position of Congress deteriorated further. The rate of economic growth had slowed down considerably. Corruption was rampant, unrest in the countryside and discontent in urban areas was widespread. The election results shocked Congressmen and the differences within the party now came to a head. The leftist “Young Turks” did not keep quiet. One of them, Chandra Shekhar, launched a frontal attack on Morarji Desai for not setting up a commission of inquiry into the affairs of the Birlas. 
The CWC took serious note of this and warned party men against indulging in personal attacks. It asked Indira Gandhi as the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party to curb this tendency on the part of the members of Parliament. Undeterred, the Young Turks carried on their pressure tactics by criticizing the party bosses for failure to implement the 10-point programme for socioeconomic development.

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 This was followed by the severe indictment of the party leadership by the Congress Forum for Socialist Action (FSA). C. Subramaniam, President of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, warned in a report that the party would not make much headway in the 1972 elections unless it adopted a radical programme of socialist action. 

He wanted the party’s goal to be declared as democratic socialism. He referred to the feeling among the people that Congress was incapable of attacking the vested interests. Different proposals were mooted to prevent a debacle in the 1972 elections. Some favoured an understanding with “like-minded” parties in the Parliament, to form a stable coalition. Indira Gandhi preferred a radical socialist action programme as a solution.
Against this backdrop, the Congress held its session in Faridabad in 1969, which turned out to be a significant event. On the eve of the session, Indira Gandhi expressed the view that the Congress should not move to the extreme left or extreme right but stick to the middle course with democratic socialism as its objective. The coalition idea was not favoured either by her or the Party President, S. Nijalingappa

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 This was followed by the severe indictment of the party leadership by the Congress Forum for Socialist Action (FSA). C. Subramaniam, President of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, warned in a report that the party would not make much headway in the 1972 elections unless it adopted a radical programme of socialist action. 

He wanted the party’s goal to be declared as democratic socialism. He referred to the feeling among the people that Congress was incapable of attacking the vested interests. Different proposals were mooted to prevent a debacle in the 1972 elections. Some favoured an understanding with “like-minded” parties in the Parliament, to form a stable coalition. Indira Gandhi preferred a radical socialist action programme as a solution.
Against this backdrop, the Congress held its session in Faridabad in 1969, which turned out to be a significant event. On the eve of the session, Indira Gandhi expressed the view that the Congress should not move to the extreme left or extreme right but stick to the middle course wThe differences within the party were also founded on ideological grounds. After the electoral defeat, the Congress leaned left-ward. For instance, the 10-point programme in May 1967 adopted by CWC which comprised control over banks, insurance, land reforms, abolition of princely privileges, ceilings on urban property and curbs on business monopolies. The right-wing Syndicate did not appreciate this and wanted better ties with the USA and suppression of Leftist groups. 
At Faridabad the intra-party wrangles had set the stage for a split. Morarji Desai was the target of a severe attack from the leftists and the “Young Turks”. Bhagwat Jha Azad, who was a member of Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet, accused some of his ministerial colleagues of sabotaging the implementation of the 10-point programme. Indira Gandhi came to Morarji Desai’s defence at the open session but her differences with Nijalingappa over issues like linguistic reorganization of the country, mixed economy, and the role of public sector surfaced. 
The action taken by Nijalingappa against some of the Young Turks for attacking Desai exacerbated the situation. Nijalingappa sought to make amends in his concluding remarks by reiterating his faith in democratic socialism. In the weeks following the Faridabad session, the warring groups prepared themselves for the next round of confrontation. The unexpected death of Dr. Zakir Hussain, President of India, and the choice of his successor became the new bone of contention between the warring groups.th democratic socialism as its objective. The coalition idea was not favoured either by her or the Party President, S. Nijalingappa

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 Indira Gandhi preferred a President of her choice with whom she would have a rapport. Her opponents in the Party wanted to have a President of their choice. Their choice was Sanjiva Reddy, who was then the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The decision was to be taken at the Central Parliamentary Board meeting at Bangalore on the eve of the AICC session. She assumed control of the Finance ministry and declared the nationalization of 14 major banks by a presidential ordinance within days of the Bangalore meeting. 

This was welcomed enthusiastically by the people. This was her way of showing to the Syndicate that she was the one in control. Following this, Morarji Desai resigned from the Cabinet. However, V.V. Giri, who was the acting President, announced his candidature for the Presidentship as an independent. The Syndicate was surprised by this move of a veteran Congress leader to oppose the official party nominee. Meanwhile, Giri appealed for a “conscience vote”. This was probably the first time that such an appeal had been made. 
Over the years, elections had been conducted on party basis leaving no scope for the voter to exercise his franchize according to his conscience. It was considered that a conscience vote would break party discipline with dangerous consequences for the stability of the Government, if the party happened to be in power. Giri’s plea created a new situation. At the end of it all, Giri got elected with the support of one-third of the party MPs and MLAs, turning the course of the history of the Congress Party.

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 Nijalingappa served show-cause notices on Central Ministers for violating party discipline and voting for Giri. Indira Gandhi questioned his authority to take action against party MPs over the head of the CPP. There were over 100 MPs who favoured disciplinary action against those who voted for Giri. They wanted to precipitate a showdown if the CWC failed to act. Indira Gandhi countered this with a threat to recommend dissolution of the Lok Sabha. In the next few weeks, the events took the direction of a compromise. The CWC came out with a resolution on the need to avert a split in the party. The move for disciplinary action was given up. The supporters of Indira Gandhi in CWC relented in their attack on the Syndicate and Nijalingappa. In the process, the Syndicate lost its strength to a considerable extent. Nijalingappa, however, warned against the “personality cult” developing in the country, referring indirectly to the signature campaign started by Indira Gandhi to convene a meeting of AICC to replace Nijalingappa by a leader of her own choice.

The CWC soon met under Nijalingappa and expelled Indira Gandhi from the party and directed the CPP to elect a new leader. One group rejected this directive leading to a formal split creating two Working Committees and two CPPs. The group owing allegiance to Nijalingappa, now called Congress (O) did not have enough strength to stake its claim to run the Government. The group owing allegiance to Indira Gandhi, called Congress (R) had to rely on independents and certain opposition groups like the communists, DMK, etc., for support.

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 Two hundred twenty of the party’s Lok Sabha MPs supported Indira and only 68 went with the Syndicate. In the AICC, 446 out of 705 members joined the Congress (R). The formal split at the national level had its repercussions elsewhere in the country and the party split into two in all the states.

The Aftermath of the Split 
Meanwhile, Indira Gandhi’s group held its AICC meeting at which Nijalingappa was replaced by Subramaniam as Congress President, an interim arrangement till regular election took place. Now her position as leader of the party and the government was established. 
In pursuance of the Congress Party resolutions, Indira Gandhi initiated steps on many fronts. She set up the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission in 1969 to check concentration of economic power. The existing land reform laws were to be implemented stringently. The Fourth Five-Year Plan was launched. Due to this programme, her support among the poor and middle classes increased. 
Another step was the abolition of privy purses and other privileges of the ex-rulers of the Princely States. The legislative measure to carry this out was adopted in the Lok Sabha but lost in the Rajya Sabha. The purpose was then achieved through a presidential order derecognizing the Princes. The Supreme Court struck this down. This provoked Indira Gandhi to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate after dissolving the Lok Sabha.

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 Garibi Hatao 

Elections to the Lok Sabha were held in 1971, a year ahead of the schedule. This was the first time that Indira Gandhi was contesting elections on her own. She gave the pro-poor slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao’ highlighting the need for removal of poverty and hunger. Her opponents turned the campaign into an effort for removing her from power. When asked by the press about the major issues in the campaign, she said, “I am the issue.” Her rivals called for ‘Indira Hatao’ to which she responded with ‘Garibi Hatao’.
In this mid-term poll, the Congress (R) secured an overwhelming majority winning 352 out of 518 seats in the Lok Sabha. One of the first acts of the government now was to amend the Constitution to delete property rights from the list of fundamental rights and to abolish privy purses. In the elections to five state assemblies too, the Congress (R) performed well. As a result, the Election Commission recognized it as the real Congress, allowed it to call itself Indian National Congress without any suffix and restored the frozen Congress symbol of two bullocks to it.
But, Indira Gandhi’s supporters preferred the “Calf and Cow” symbol it had adopted after the 1969 split and dropped the suffix “R”. The morale in the Congress Party was boosted by the way Indira Gandhi carried on the administration and projected the image of the country

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 Formation of Bangladesh 

Around that time, a liberation movement had begun in East Pakistan under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On 25 March 1971, Pakistani armed forces cracked down upon the civilian people of East Pakistan and perpetrated genocide on an unprecedented scale. About 10 million refugees migrated from East Pakistan and took shelter in India, leading her to point out that, “an internal problem of Pakistan has become an internal problem of India also.” Human rights were violated and world opinion went against Pakistan.
 Indira Gandhi stood by the suffering people. On 3 December 1971, Pakistan attacked India. India reacted by recognizing the provisional government of Bangladesh and joined with Mukti Bahini of Bangladesh to resist Pakistan. War with Pakistan broke out on both the eastern and north-western fronts. On 16 December, Pakistani army in East Bengal surrendered and East Pakistan was liberated. A new nation known as Bangladesh emerged. With the surrender of Pakistan in the eastern front, Indira Gandhi declared unilateral cease-fire and a battered Pakistan had no option but to accept it. 
Indira Gandhi was at the height of her power in the wake of the 1971 war. She was hailed as Durga, an incarnation of Shakti. The war was seen as her personal success. After all, she had mobilized world opinion on Bangladesh, travelling to all the major capitals of the world except the US which was avowedly hostile.

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 The political fallout of the war was evident in the electoral success of the party in the Assembly Elections of March 1972. It won everywhere, including West Bengal. Soon after this, in 1974, India successfully performed an underground nuclear detonation and became a member of the nuclear club. Despite this, she continued to favour disarmament. At a UN conference on human environment held in 1972 at Stockholm, she also stressed the importance of environmental conservation. 

The growing popularity of Indira Gandhi and the Congress could not be borne by the opposition parties, particularly those who had left the Congress, and the rightist groups. They all combined in a Grand Alliance on the eve of the 1971 elections. The Grand Alliance parties however did not fare well in the elections. This was an unnatural coming together of the leftist and rightist groups, inspired solely by anti-Congress sentiments. There was no other meeting ground in terms of either agenda or ideology. 
In desperation to unseat the Congress, they decided to support any movement which was opposed to the government. An unfavourable atmosphere loomed in the economic crisis resulting from the impact of immigration of Bangladeshi refugees and the subsequent war with Pakistan, rising prices, food shortages and growing scarcity of jobs which caused much disaffection. Other facets of the crisis included the drain of foreign reserves and drought due to monsoon failure in 1972 and 1973.

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 The oil shock of 1973 led to a spurt in the prices of petroleum goods, and foreign exchange reserves in many countries decreased appreciably. There were food riots in many areas and soon this disaffection led to large-scale industrial unrest. Strikes occurred in many areas during 1972 and 1973 leading to a 22-day all-India railway strike in May 1974. The strike was repressed and the government’s popularity among the working class suffered another setback. In UP, in May 1973, the Armed Constabulary mutinied, leading to a violent clash with the army sent in to suppress it, killing more than 35 constables and soldiers. Demonstrations, protests and strikes continued during the years 1974 and 1975.

Factors leading to the Emergency
Two mass agitations in Bihar and Gujarat were launched turning the socioeconomic discontent into a political movement. In January 1974 in Gujarat, popular anger over high food prices created conditions of anarchy. This was expressed as a student movement and supported by opposition parties. Strikes, arson, looting and rioting became rampant. 
President’s rule was imposed in the state followed by the dissolution of the Assembly and fresh elections to it were announced for June 1975. Soon after this, in Bihar, a students’ movement against the government was launched in March 1974. 

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 It was led by Jayaprakash Narayan who gave a call for ‘total revolution’. He came out of political retirement and demanded the resignation of the Congress government in Bihar, and asked people to pay no taxes and establish parallel people’s governments across the state. It was supported by students, traders, middle classes and a section of the intelligentsia. 

This was an extra-constitutional and undemocratic movement aimed at unseating the government at any cost. The students clashed with the police on several occasions, leading to 27 deaths in one week. The movement gradually spread to other parts of the country as well. Indira Gandhi refused to succumb to this pressure and did not dissolve the assembly. The movement lost its strength by the end of 1974. The student support dwindled; the poor had never really been mobilized. Indira Gandhi challenged Jayaprakash Narayan to a real electoral battle rather than this unconstitutional approach which he had adopted. 
However, the electoral battle was sidelined by the verdict of the Allahabad High Court against Indira Gandhi in the election petition filed by Raj Narain, who had opposed her in her constituency in the Lok Sabha polls and lost. Justice Sinha had dismissed the more serious charges and had convicted Indira Gandhi on the technical and trivial, even frivolous offences against the election law. The verdict charged her with violating the election law to win her seat and invalidated her election, disallowing her from contesting elections for six years.

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 Indira Gandhi rejected this verdict and appealed to the Supreme Court which allowed her to continue in office. Soon, the results of the Gujarat assembly elections showed that Congress had secured 75 seats as against 87 of the opposing Janata Party in a house of 182. 

These two events strengthened the Janata Party and soon they demanded that Indira Gandhi should resign. On 25 June 1975, in Delhi, they announced that a campaign of mass agitation and civil disobedience to force her to resign would be launched on 29 June. Jayaprakash Narayan asked the people to obstruct the functioning of the government and asked the army, police and bureaucracy to disobey this ‘corrupt’ government. In response, Indira Gandhi declared a state of internal emergency in the country on 26 June 1975.
The JP movement suffered from many shortcomings. Even though Jayaprakash Narayan could not be faulted on his integrity and selflessness, his ideology remained vague. During the 1950s, he criticised parliamentary democracy and advocated a partyless democracy. During this movement in Bihar, he advocated ‘total revolution’. But he never really defined its political, social or economic implications. He himself was not an authoritarian leader but the ambiguity of his ideas provided scope for totalitarian elements.

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 It led him to accept support from parties which had nothing in common with his ideas or agenda. Communal groups like Jan Sangh and Jamaat-i-Islami, the RSS, Socialists and Naxalites— all entered his movement making it impossible to outline any coherent political ideology. The good organizational strength of the RSS and Jan Sangh soon dominated the cadre of the movement, with Jayaprakash Narayan remaining only responsible for mass mobilization. The undemocratic nature of the movement was evident in its aim of wanting to overthrow the government in Bihar and the Central government at any cost. 

The methodology adopted by the movement was also unconstitutional. Demonstrations and rallies, gheraos of the legislatures and government offices were aimed at forcing the government and the legislators to resign. The army, police and civil services were encouraged to disobey the government. On 25 June 1975, they declared their intention of gheraoing the PM’s residence to force her to resign. They wished to intimidate her into giving up office. 
The period of the emergency saw the suspension of normal political procedures and fundamental rights, arrests of the leaders of the Grand Alliance, and enforcement of press censorship and strict discipline. Extreme communal and leftist organizations were banned. More than one lakh people were arrested over the 19 months of the Emergency. Powers of the judiciary were reduced drastically.

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 Unlimited state and party power was concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister. Vast sections of the population welcomed it initially since general administration improved. But, civil rights activists took exception to the curbs on freedom of expression and personal liberties. Unfortunately, in certain spheres, over-enthusiasm led to compulsion in enforcement of certain programmes like compulsory sterilization and clearance of slums. Sanjay Gandhi had, by then, emerged as a leader of great significance. 

It was due to his support to family planning that the government decided to pursue it more vigorously. He also promoted slum clearance, anti-dowry measures and promotion of literacy but in an arbitrary and authoritarian manner much to the annyonce of the popular opinion.
General Elections and the Janata Phase
On 18 January 1977, Indira Gandhi ordered elections to the Lok Sabha, releasing political prisoners and removing curbs on freedom of expression. The decision to call off the Emergency and hold the elections showed the strength of Indian democracy. The Grand Alliance fought these elections under the banner of Janata Party and secured an impressive victory, except in the southern states. It won 330 seats out of 542 in Lok Sabha. The Congress was defeated and it readily resigned from office. The world was impressed with this return to the democratic path in India.

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 The Janata Party took over the reins of Government and set up the Shah Commission to inquire into the alleged emergency excesses. Jagjivan Ram and some other Congressmen left the party in February 1977 and formed a new party known as Congress for Democracy. It joined forces with the Janata Party. 

The impact of defeat in the general election in 1977 was severe. Congress could only win 154 seats in the Lok Sabha, Indira Gandhi herself was defeated in Rae Bareilly by Raj Narain. Sanjay Gandhi was defeated in Amethi. Congress did not get any Lok Sabha seat in UP, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab; Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan returned only one member each to the Lok Sabha on the Congress ticket. 
The performance in West Bengal, Orissa and Gujarat was equally dismal. Only the South stood by the Congress solidly and Maharashtra gave a marginal majority to the Congress. Y.B. Chavan, was chosen as the leader of the Congress Party in the Parliament. On the organizational front there was almost a knee-jerk reaction. Many people demanded the resignation of the Congress President and members of the Working Committee. Indira Gandhi accepted the verdict of the people and assumed the responsibility of the defeat.

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 A section of the Congress leaders demanded that Congress must get rid of Indira Gandhi and her supporters. K. Brahmananda Reddy was elected Congress President defeating Siddhartha Shankar Ray and 10 members were elected to the Working Committee. The 81-year old Morarji Desai took over as the Prime Minister in March 1977. One of the first acts of his government was the dismissal of Congress ministries in 9 states. In the ensuing elections, in June 1977, the Janata Party won in 7 states. 

Sanjiva Reddy was elected as President in July 1977 with the support of the Janata Party and its allies. The Janata government spent the first two weeks in euphoria and in dismantling the structures of the Emergency. Indira Gandhi was found guilty of committing a breach of privilege of the Parliament and sent to Tihar Jail from the Lok Sabha. All such actions only helped to generate sympathy in her favour among the public. Indira Gandhi was soon engaged in regaining the lost confidence of the people. 
An incident in July 1977 in Bihar (Belchi) where Harijans were massacred provided an opportunity for her to visit the place and express her sympathies in the cause of the downtrodden. This helped in her campaign when she contested the bye-election to the Lok Sabha from the Chikmagalur constituency in Karnataka held in November 1978.

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 She was returned to the Lok Sabha and took her place as the leader of the Opposition. In the meanwhile, ministers deposing before the Shah Commission squarely placed the blame for the Emergency on Indira Gandhi’s shoulders. The Janata Party and a section of the Congress leaders started a campaign against her on all fronts. She was arrested on 3 October 1977 on the charge of abusing the office of the Prime Minster by obtaining illegal benefits from industrialists by seeking some jeeps for her party candidates in the election of 1977. 

The whole nation was stunned at the triviality of the allegations. However, the next day the judge acquitted her by pointing out that there was no case. The AICC was summoned to condemn the atrocious, vindictive act of the Janata Party government but instead of condemning the Janata government’s action, the session criticized Indira Gandhi and her so-called coterie. Hereafter, she was ignored in major party decisions. 
In the selection of party candidates for the Assembly elections in June 1977 neither her services were called for nor was she consulted in major policy matters. So, her supporters started a move to have a requisition meeting of the AICC members to replace K. Brahmananda Reddy and elect Indira Gandhi as the Congress President.

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 The Janata Party failed to deal with many important problems. Social tensions in rural areas accelerated; their opposition to Nehruvian economic policies did not bring out any alternative framework; inflation rose to more than 20 per cent in 1979. On top of this, the constituent parties of Janata Party started clashing with each other. Soon, the party broke up in 1979 with Charan Singh forming a government that lasted only a few months. 

Second Split and Indira Gandhi’s Return to Power
A National Convention of Congress workers was held in Delhi on 1 and 2 January 1978. Indira Gandhi was elected President and authorized to constitute the Working Committee, Central Parliamentary Board office bearers, Provincial Congress Committees (PCCs) and other subordinate Congress Committees. Ultimately, the Party split formally.
Elections were to be held in Andhra, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in February 1978. The Election Commission refused to recognize Indira’s group as the Congress. So the symbol of “Calf and Cow” was retained by the other faction led by Sanjiva Reddy and the suffix “I” was added to the faction led by Indira Gandhi. A new reserved symbol “Hand” was allotted to the party.

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 The Party headquarters and bank accounts were not given to the faction led by Indira Gandhi. So, a new party headquarters was established at 24, Akbar Road. For all legal purposes, this party was considered as a new Party and the other faction was called “Congress” till Congress (I) was recognized as “Congress” by a court verdict in 1982. However, people gave their verdict in favour of Indira Gandhi’s party much earlier by putting her party in power with two-thirds majority in Andhra and Karnataka. 

In Maharashtra, it swept the Vidarbha region by winning almost all the seats. As no party got a clear majority in Maharashtra, a coalition government of the two factions of the Congress was formed. In Assam, the party did not do well and won only eight seats. However, the victory spree demonstrated the popular support which Indira enjoyed. The common people saw the attempts by the Janata government to imprison her as vindictive and sympathized with her.
By the end of 1979, elections were ordered to the Lok Sabha, two years ahead of schedule and Indira Gandhi’s Congress was returned with a thumping majority of 353 out of 529 seats giving it a two-thirds majority. She became the Prime Minister once again in 1980. One of the first acts of the Congress government was to dissolve the governments in nine states where the Janata Party ruled.

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 In the subsequent elections, the Congress swept the polls in all these states except in Tamil Nadu. Now, 15 out of 22 states were under Congress rule. Soon after she assumed office, Sanjay Gandhi was killed in an air crash. After getting over this personal loss, Indira Gandhi devoted herself vigorously to the problems awaiting to be resolved. An important event of that period was the Summit Meeting of Non-Aligned Movement hosted by India in March 1983. 

Her contribution in shaping the NAM was regarded quite significant. Similarly, she took an active role in the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) and many other international forums. Indira Gandhi’s growing popularity attracted many youngsters to the Congress. By then Kamaraj had died and his supporters in Tamil Nadu returned to the Congress (I).

In this period, growing communal, linguistic and caste conflicts were issues of major concern. Moreover, terrorism raised its head in Punjab, Kashmir and Assam. Besides these, the problem of the people of Indian origin in Sri Lanka was becoming complex. In Assam, the problem centred on illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. In Sri Lanka, she supported the aspirations of the people of Indian origin, without affecting the national integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

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 In Punjab, the Akali Dal presented a series of demands, including formation of a separate Khalistan. The Government was prepared to concede anything but secession. The terrorists, backed by Pakistan, were disrupting law and order, gunning down innocent people and damaging public property. In dealing with legitimate demands, she had earlier accepted the demand for a Punjabi-speaking state in March 1966 and made Chandigarh a Union Territory which would be the capital of both Punjab and Haryana. 

This took away the political grounding of the Akali Dal and now, they started taking up more and more communal demands and terrorism struck root in Punjab. The terrorists were targeting Hindus and creating a reign of terror in the state. In 1984, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to liberate the Golden Temple in Amritsar from the hold of terrorists. This was portrayed as an attack on the Sikh community and their religion and calls for revenge were raised by terrorists against her. On 31 October 1984, she was shot dead by two of her own security men. She thus paid the ultimate price in the service of the nation, trying to retain its integrity and secular character. 
Indira was a lion-hearted lady who successfully steered the country through some of its worst economic and political crises. She won the hearts of the poor and they responded to her assassination as if they had lost their protector. Kitchen fires were not lit for days in the huts of the poor in remote villages as the news spread that she was no more.

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