When the Congress simply lost steam

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 30, 2012 11:42 hrs

There have been many times in the history of the Congress when despite getting a solid mandate, the party simply lost steam in the second half of its term.

Thrice we have had a failed Janata experiment come right after?

We are now dangerously heading towards the fourth.

A look at the instances…


Great Beginning: In 1971, Indira Gandhi launched a catchy “Garibi Hatao” (Remove poverty) campaign and won 352 seats in the Lok Sabha, up 93 seats from the previous term. After that came the triumphant Indo-Pak War and liberation of Bangladesh.

Indira could have made a fresh start as she no longer had to fight with party elders, a split in the party or rely on other parties for support as she had done in the past.

The Fall: Instead of consolidation, things got worse. The economy worsened thanks to the war and influx of Bangladeshi refugees. Social activist Jayaprakash Narayan launched a nation-wide campaign against her.

In 1975 when the Allahabad High Court declared her LS election null void, things got totally out of hand and she imposed Emergency.

The Aftermath: In 1977, the Janata Party came to power with a clear majority. This was the first time we had a non-Congress PM. They could have easily ruled for the full five year term had they not ended up squabbling the way they did to fall in 1980.


Great Beginning: A mandate of 404 LS seats was not achieved by even Jawaharlal Nehru and is in the realms of impossibility today. But that’s exactly what Rajiv Gandhi got in 1984 when he stormed to power with a Mr Clean image.

He was the virtual dictator of India and all manner of reform was there for the asking. He even got the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement to set his stamp as an international statesman.

The Fall: It is in this light that Rajiv could be called one of the worst PMs ever. Imagine what AB Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh could have achieved with such a mandate!

His insensitivity on the anti-Sikh riots were compounded by events like Operation Black Thunder, where the Golden Temple was targeted yet again. His arrogance pushed close aides like VP Singh away.

Finally corruption charges like those in the Bofors scam totally nailed him.

The Aftermath: From 1989-91, we had two Janata Dal Prime Ministers, VP Singh and Chandra Shekhar. The former is known for the Mandal agitation and the latter hardly at all. They could well be called the two lost years in India’s history.


Great Beginning: Narasimha Rao made a great beginning in 1991, riding on the Rajiv assassination sympathy wave. He could be called the true architect of the reforms and also had achievements in foreign policy.

The Fall: It all began with the no-confidence motion of 1993 when it was alleged that JMM MPs had been bribed to save the government. There was the Harshad Mehta stock scam and the Lakhubhai Pathak bribery allegations.

The Aftermath: The Congress lost in 1996 and we had two more Janata Dal PMs in the form of HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral. They could well be called the Irrelevant Two in India’s history.


Great Beginning: In 2009, the UPA shocked the pollsters by making a comeback with an even greater vote share. So optimistic were the Congress leaders at that time that they started talking as if they would win in 2014 too and hence had a mandate till 2019!

But they had the numbers and momentum to really come out with big-ticket reforms and boost the economy.

The Fall: Indira had the Emergency. Rajiv had Bofors. Rao had the cash for votes scam. One must say that the Manmohan government has strived to better all three.

Anna Hazare was turned into a Jayaprakash Narayan and there was high-handedness with him and Baba Ramdev. Congress spokespersons tried to outdo Nazi propagandist Goebbels and IT Minister Kapil Sibal tried to police the Internet.

Then Manmohan also has 2G, the mother of all scams, and his own cash for votes scandal. And the scandals keep coming: Coalgate, army deal allegations…

The Aftermath: Now there seems to be very little chance of the Congress returning to power in 2014. What’s worse is that it may not even last the full term. While there is a very strong anti-Congress wave, there is no corresponding pro-BJP wave.

That means that many regional players could be strengthened and we could have another 2-3 year 2-PM Janata type experiment.

Arrogance continues to be one of the biggest enemies of the Congress.

Also Read:

Donkeys, dynasties and a forgetful electorate

10 years after Godhra: Let us not forget the other riots

Rahul Gandhi & Mayawati: Biggest losers of the season

UP results make almost everyone happy

Why does the Congress want to pick a fight with everybody?

2G verdict: Is there any 'clean' minister left in the UPA?

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at

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