Gujarat was lost in the Rajiv years

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 20, 2012 06:07 hrs

So, Narendra Modi has scored a hat-trick in the Gujarat polls of 2012. A lot of people never tire of telling that this is all a result of Godhra and polarisation of voters. What they always miss is the fact that the BJP won 117 seats in 1998 and 121 seats in 1995.

So they then talk of a polarisation of voters after the destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992. But that still doesn’t explain how the Congress went from a whopping 149 seats in 1985 to just 33 seats in 1990. The BJP and Janata Dal together got 133 seats at that time.

The truth is that there have been three anti-dynasty movements from the 1960s-80s and that is when the Congress lost certain states, some of them for good.

1960s: The Anti-Nehru movement.

States lost in 1967: Bihar, Tamil Nadu (then Madras), Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Orissa.

When the Congress won the general elections in 1962, it also ruled almost all the states in India. It seemed that India would forever be a one-party nation and Jawaharlal Nehru would rule like a dictator till his death.

Then two things happened. First India lost the war with China and Nehru’s sense of invincibility was shattered and his health started failing.

Then Ram Manohar Lohia quit the Congress and launched an anti-Congress movement in 1963. It was a clash of personalities and Lohia took on Nehru. There was a buzz created all over India and all the regional parties started flexing their muscles.

This movement continued even after Nehru’s death in 1964 and there was no sympathy wave in the years to come. The landmark year came in 1967 and the Congress lost 6 out of 16 states in the elections held at that time. That was the watershed year when the aura of Congress was shattered forever.

The seat share of the Congress in the Lok Sabha fell drastically 73% to 54%. The country also had a greater opposition in the form of C Rajagopalachari’s Swatantra Party. This mood further led to a split in the Congress in the late 1960s.

1970s: The Anti-Indira movement.

States lost from 1975-80: Gujarat, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura.

The anti-Indira movement had started in the 1960s, but it really picked up steam in the 1970s. Again, Indira won the Lok Sabha elections after the split and won the 1971 war. A similar Nehru-type invincibility halo was being created around her.

Then what began as an anti-Congress students’ movement in Gujarat was turned into a massive national campaign by Jayaprakash Narayan. Narayan successfully united the entire opposition under his leadership and a scared Indira was forced to impose Emergency in 1975.

After the Emergency, it is well known that The Janata Party came to power, the first time that the Congress lost at the Centre. But another major fact was that the Congress lost power in about a dozen odd states from the mid-1970s to 1980.

1980s: The Anti-Rajiv movement.

States lost from 1989-91: Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Orissa.

1984-89 marked the third time a dynasty member looked to be running a dictatorship when he won a whopping 416 seats. But Rajiv’s arrogance and dictatorial style led to a backlash all across the country and his own aide VP Singh ditched him and went on to form the Janata Dal with many other opposition leaders.

While the Congress lost power at the Centre in 1989, it also subsequently lost power in many states all across India.

While the Congress managed to regain some of its states, some it could never recover.

In the 1960s, the Congress lost Tamil Nadu for good.

In the 1970s, it lost West Bengal for good.

But the 1989-90 was the most momentous period when they lost Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat for good. That’s the real story. That’s one of the main reasons that the Congress has never ever won a majority on its own after that at the Centre.

There is currently another anti-Congress and anti-dynasty mood in the country. Right now it is quite fragmented. The mindshare has been split between leaders like Narendra Modi, Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.

But it remains to be seen how all this plays itself out in 2014 and if we have a similar movement like the one in 1960s-80s which booted the Congress out of many states.

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs at

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