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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

ONCE UPON A POLL: Sixth Lok Sabha election (1977)

This was the poll in which Indira Gandhi lost her seat and was routed by Raj Narain

Updated: March 14, 2014 7:09:46 pm

March 16 to March 20; it was the shortest election ever


The backdrop to this election was among the most dramatic. India joined the Bangladesh liberation war in December 1971 and a decisive victory over Pakistan greatly added to the halo around Indira Gandhi.

India’s distance from the US on the latter’s pro-Pakistan positioning, and the former’s proximity to the Soviet bloc reconfigured international ties. But price rise and a well-coordinated coalition of disgruntled anti-Indira elements came together as an overconfident Indira Gandhi declared emergency after her election to Rae Bareli had been challenged in court. As the tide turned against her, sycophants such as D K Baruah, who coined the phrase “India is Indira and Indira is India”, made matters worse. And when she took on and jailed even her father’s contemporary J P Narayan, it bolstered his cry for Sampoorna Kranti or total revolution. A student and middle-class revolt in Gujarat, combined with events in the north belt, dimmed the after-war glow and led to Indira losing control. A railway strike in 1974 paralysed the country. Indira’s son Sanjay Gandhi was seen as a law unto himself and, with his nasbandi or forced sterilisation programme, the government’s 20-point programme became a bad word. Indira lost once close allies such as Jagjivan Ram days before the election. Indira eventually called off emergency, but the polls were still 19 months late. The election pitted her against a coalition of former Congressmen, pro-farmer parties, the Hindu right and socialists, with the newly formed Janata Party and JP as the focal point.

Standout features

For the first time since independence, the Congress could not secure a majority.

There was a clear north-south divide. The Congress got no seats in UP and Bihar, and in fact had just two seats in all of the north. In the south, it got 41 of 42 in Andhra Pradesh and 26 of 28 in Karnataka.



Indira Gandhi lost her seat, routed by Raj Narain, generally taken with no seriousness until then. She had defeated him convincingly in 1971.

India got its second Gujarati prime minister in the form of Morarji Desai, MP from Surat.
Charan singh, MP from Baghpat, later held office for a few months.

ALSO READ: Fifth Lok Sabha Election

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