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History Revisited: How political parties fared in 1980 Lok Sabha election

The Janata Alliance had achieved a landslide victory in 1977 riding on the anger against Indira during Emergency. But India's first coalition government could not survive a five-year-term. Indira Gandhi made a comeback in the 1980 election decimating the other parties who were in the fray.

History Revisited: How political parties fared in 1980 Lok Sabha election

Janata Alliance had brought down the mighty Indira Gandhi led Congress by winning the 1977 Lok Sabha election. The alliance saw the coming together of four key opposition parties - namely the Jan Sangh, the Bharatiya Lok Dal, Socialist Party, Congress for Democracy and the Organization Congress (also known as the Opposition Congress) who had contested the 1977 election under the banner of Janata Party. However, the alliance failed on its promises and the first non-Congress government collapsed in less than three years.

Also Read: History of Lok Sabha elections

 

The Janata Alliance had achieved a landslide victory in 1977 riding on the anger against Indira during Emergency. Morarji Desai had taken oath as the first non-Congress prime minister on 24 March 1971. However, the alliance could not contain the differences among the top leaders, all of whom had ambitions to be the power centre in the government. The alliance had a majority in the House with 295 seats, but the constant opposition by Bharatiya Lok Dal’s Charan Singh and Congress for Democracy leader Jagjivan Ram made sure the Desai government doesn’t last long.

Morarji Desai was forced to step down after Raj Narain and Charan Singh pulled out their support from the government. Raj Narain rallied behind Charan Singh who took over as Morarji Desai's successor and became the Prime Minister of the country on 24 July 1979. The Charan Singh government also had the support of Indira Gandhi, the former PM who had jailed him and several other prominent leaders during the Emergency. However, his government could not sustain for long. The Congress pulled out its support and Charan Singh had to resign within 24 weeks. Thirty four months after assuming power, the Janata alliance government collapsed and the House was prematurely dissolved on 22 August 1979.  Lok Sabha election was held six months later between 3-6 January 1980.

Owing to a series of defections in the Janata Party, President NS Reddy prematurely dissolved the Lok Sabha on 22 August 1979. Morarji Desai continued to serve as the caretaker prime minister after the dissolution till the new government takes oath.

Lok Sabha election was held six months later between 3-6 January 1980.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Minister of External Affairs in the Janata government, had said after the 1977 election that Indira had been "consigned to the dustbin of history". However, the results of the 1980 election showcased a completely opposite picture.

The main parties who were in the fray were Jagjivan Ram led Janata Group, Indira Gandhi led Indian National Congress (I) and  Charan Singh led Indian National Congress (U) which was also called Lok Dal.

With the fate that the first coalition government received, India was looking for stability. The Congress led by Indira Gandhi which had the experience of running the House was seen as an obvious choice and a massive victory was predicted by analysts even before the votes were cast. The social issues on which she focussed during her campaignings like the restoration of law and order, rising inflation also added to her popularity.

As expected, Congress came back to power capturing 351 Lok Sabha of 529 seats, winning more than two-thirds of the House. Also remarkable was the fact that the party which had been swept clean in the Hindi heartland in the 1977 election made its comeback in 1980 and that too with a bang.   

It revived itself in the states where it had not won even a single seat in the last election and won 51 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 30 in Bihar, 5 in Haryana and 4 in Himachal Pradesh. It maintained its stronghold in the southern states by improving its winning margin by winning 39 seats in Maharashtra as opposed to the 20 in the last election, 20 in Tamil Nadu, 6 more than before and one more than the previous tally in Karnataka taking the number of seats in the state to 27.

STATES NUMBER OF SEATS WON BY CONGRESS - STATE WISE
ANDHRA PRADESH 41
ARUNACHAL PRADESH 2
ASSAM 2
BIHAR 30
GUJARAT 25
HARYANA 5
HIMACHAL PRADESH 4
JAMMU & KASHMIR 1
KARNATAKA 27
KERALA 5
MADHYA PRADESH 35
MAHARASHTRA 39
MANIPUR 1
MEGHALAYA 1
ORISSA 20
PUNJAB 12
RAJASTHAN 18
TAMIL NADU 20
UTTAR PRADESH 51
WEST BENGAL 4
ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLANDS 1
CHANDIGARH 1
DADRA & NAGAR HAVELI 1
NATIONAL CAPITAL TERRITORY OF DELHI 6
PONDICHERRY 1
TOTAL 353

The margin of the Congress win was so much that none of the other parties won the percentage of seats required to even qualify as the official opposition party. Janata faced a massive defeat winning just 31 seats of the 433 it contested on. It won the maximum number of seats from Bihar and Maharashtra winning 8 seats each. The Janata Party (Secular) of which Charan Singh was a part bagged 41 seats of the 293 it contested on. The party was renamed as Lok Dal before the 1980 election but was represented as Janata Party (Secular) by the Election Commission in the polls.

The two Communist parties together bagged 47 seats - Communist Party of India winning with 10 seats while the Communist Party of India Marxist winning 37 seats. CPM improved its performance in West Bengal winning 28 seats, as opposed to the 17 that it had won in 1977 election.

Before the election, Indira Gandhi-led Congress had faced yet another split with Devaraj Urs, the then Chief Minister of Karnataka parting ways and forming Indian National Congress (U) in July 1979. While splitting from the party, he had said that the main reason for his exit was Indira Gandhi's son Sanjay Gandhi's return into the party fold. Sanjay Gandhi's policies during the Emergency regime from 1975-1977 are believed to be a core reason for the defeat of the Congress in the 1977 election. Urs led Congress (U) won 13 seats of the 212 seats it contested on.  

Overall, 1541 candidates across six national parties had nominated themselves for the polls of which 485 won their seats. Apart from these 106 candidates from state parties were in the fray of which 34 won while just one candidate of an unrecognised party was able to win the seat of the 156 who had tried their luck.

The tally of the Independents who had had quite a share in the past elections faced a major loss in 1980. Of the 2826 candidates who contested, only 9 candidates won on their seats. Many of these Independents pledged their support to Congress (I) in the Lok Sabha. Apart from Independents, members of regional parties also backed the Congress (I).

Indira Gandhi was on January 10 invited to form the government. She took oath as the Prime Minister of the 7th Lok Sabha on 14 January 1980, yet again bringing Congress to the centrestage.