4 PMs & upheaval
This election is seen as the first of those to signal a break from the Congress hegemony of the first 20 years after Independence. It came after a five-year period (1962-66) that had seen five ceremonies swearing in four prime ministers – Jawaharlal Nehru, Gulzarilal Nanda (twice), Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi.
A war with China just after the 1962 elections had resulted in a deep shock to Nehru, who fell ill and died in 1964. That marked a change in many ways for the Congress and India. The “succession” of Nehru’s daughter Indira was anything but smooth. Nanda, the MP from Sabarkantha, took charge for a fortnight after Nehru’s death, after which Shastri, the MP from Allahabad, was sworn in and remained PM until his death in 1966 in Tashkent. Indira, seen as a “safe bet”, was sworn in after Shastri’s death, with Nanda again as an interim arrangement.
The tussle in the Congress was accompanied by a split in 1964 of the Communist Party of India, a significant opposition at the time.
Apart from the war with China, India also fought one with Pakistan in 1965. This was a time of war, food scarcity and political and social turmoil, with the first significant communal riots since Partition breaking out in Jabalpur and Rourkela after Nehru’s death.
In June 1966, seven months prior to the general elections, PM Indira announced a devaluation of the rupee. The rupee, pegged to the British pound so far, fell 60 per cent in the international market. It was prompted by huge deficits, high oil bills and an end of aid from the West (which sided with Pakistan in the war against India) and Indira hoped the devaluation would make exports cheaper.
Before this, despite his short stint, Lal Bahadur Shastri’s memorable slogan “Jai jawan, Jai kisan” was also shorthand for top-of-the-mind issues as the country went to polls.
1967 is best remembered for the assembly polls where the Congress lost control of six states, which was a first, especially in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal
The Congress also lost 70 Lok Sabha seats since 1962
Independents and others posted strong showings, suggesting a churn taking place in Indian politics.
Indira Gandhi picked Rae Bareli, her late husband’s constituency, for her first Lok Sabha election.
Also read: The Third Lok Sabha
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