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ONCE UPON A POLL: 13th Lok Sabha (1999)
September 5 to October 3
This Lok Sabha’s turn saw a near-war with Pakistan after record breaking attempts at peace through a bus ride by a BJP-led government. The AIADMK’s J Jayalalithaa pulled support after a year of reluctantly handing the BJP a letter of support. In the vote of confidence called in the summer of 1999, Mayawati changed her mind at the last minute and voted against the NDA, and despite attempts at deft management by troubleshooter Pramod Mahajan, the NDA lost by one vote. Attempts by the Congress to try and form a government failed with Mulayam Singh Yadav raising the name of Jyoti Basu, as a red herring as it transpired, to scupper the Congress’s chances of forming an “alternative”. The elections were held mid-term as no stable government was deemed possible.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was elected PM with the NDA now fully formed, multiparty, national coalition. It was a time of deep realignments, with former United Front parties TDP (outside support) and DMK joining hands with the NDA. The Trinamool Congress, Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP and the BJD all were part of the government.
This Lok Sabha would see the first non-Congress government lasting (almost) its full term. The disconnect between vote share and number of seats won stayed in this Lok Sabha. The single largest party (seat-wise) the BJP did not have the highest vote share. The Congress tally was its lowest ever. This Lok Sabha would see a lot of debate on the 2002 Gujarat riots, a milestone in India that is still a hot political issue.