North and South of Indian Politics
India being the largest democracy, its politics has always been a hot topic to discuss.
After the Independence, there had been a lot of political activities, some of which changed
the course of Indian politics itself, some of them set new trends, and some of them led to
rise of new leaders while some saw unexpected fall of promising leaders. Indian politics has
always remained a party based politics rather than individuals. Six decades of Indian politics
saw rise and fall of many parties on regional and national level. However, after sixty years,
it is more or less clear that politics on national level is a two party affair, with Congress and
BJP forming the North and South of Indian politics.
Indian National Congress, or just Congress, established in 1885, dominated the first
half of ‘After Independence’ era of Indian politics. Leading the independence movement,
Congress remained a natural choice of common people. Independence movement gave
Congress a generation of visionary leaders, with Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana
Azad, Lal Bahadur Shastri leading India from misery of slavery to new era of development.
Jawaharlal Nehru was elected as Prime Minister for consecutive 16 years. Under his able
leadership, India saw a new era of development. His government aimed at bringing an all-
round development by investing in basic infrastructure, agriculture, education and
industrialisation on large scale. During his tenure as Prime minister, Nehru didn’t face any
strong political opposition. However, he had serious difference of opinion on various issues
with his own ministers, especially issues like Kashmir and various constitutional restrictions
put on the powers to be exercised by President.
Lal Bahadur Shastri had to face problems like drought, famines, war with Pakistan.
But he braved through the situation during his short term of two years. After sudden death
of Shastri, Indira Gandhi succeeded him. Her tenure as Prime minister was the most
controversial that saw rise of strong opposition against Congress. She enjoyed support from
rural India which formed her strength but had to face opposition for curbing her opponents
through unconstitutional ways. Her decision to nationalise Banks reflected her promise for
an overall economic development. However, the prevailing Licence Raj system literally
halted the economic growth. Jayprakash Narayan’s ‘Sampoorna Kranti’ movement against
Congress gave a new generation of politicians which ultimately led to the rise of Jansagh,
which was later dissolved and a new party called Bhartiya Janata Party was formed. Her
decision to enforce emergency for almost year and half to curb his opponents is regarded as
the strongest blow to democracy. She lost the general elections of 1977 and new coalition
government under leadership of Morarji Desai was formed. However, due to difference of
opinion between participating parties the government didn’t complete its full term and
Indira regained power after fresh general elections.
After the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, her son Rajiv led Congress to
a historic win in general elections of 1987 by winning 512 seats in Lok Sabha. This led
to new trend of dynasty rule in Congress and ‘Gandhi’ name became synonymous to
Congress. Rajiv’s charming and dynamic personalities and his vision for development were
his strength. However, after his name was associated in Boforce scandal, he had to face
strong opposition. The assassination of Rajiv led to a serious crisis of leadership in Congress.
P.V.Narsimha Rao succeeded him and became the first non-Gandhi Prime minister to
complete the term. His tenure saw many economic reforms which is regarded as landmark
for economic development. After Rao, it was BJP who took the seat of driver in Indian
BJP is regarded as political face of its parent organisation RSS. After emergency and
dissolution of Jansangh, BJP was formed by Shyama Prasad Mukharji. A cadre based party;
it groomed future Non-Congress leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani.
With Hindutva as its prominent ideology, BJP stormed Indian politics by winning 119 seats
in general elections of 1991. The ‘Somnath Rath Yatra’ boosted BJP and it became the
alternative for Congress. After its failed attempt to form government in 1996 and 1998,
BJP gained power by forming coalition government under the name NDA with 24 alliance
parties in 1999. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became first Non Congress Prime Minister to complete
tenure of five years. With great oratory skills, Vajpayee enjoyed strong support from masses
while Advani had great organisational skills. BJP led NDA government invested in improving
basic infrastructure in rural and urban areas. This boosted the economic development
and the government gave a new slogan of ‘India Shining’. NDA is often complimented for
improving basic infrastructure. However, it had to face strong opposition due to Tehelka
scam, Gujrat riots, etc. The unexpected defeat of BJP in general elections of 2004 soon
revealed that ‘India Shining’ was just an illusion and it was limited to only urban areas
while rural areas were still in darkness of economic backwardness. With Vajpayee retiring
from active politics, BJP faced crisis of leadership. It lacked the charm of Vajpayee who can
communicate with the audience.
Meanwhile, Congress regained its momentum under leadership of Sonia Gandhi
(which reflected the dynasty rule in Congress). Manmohan Singh was elected as Prime
Minister and Congress formed coalition government with Left parties. It had to face a strong
restriction for implementing its policies from left parties. In general elections of 2009,
Congress secured majority and didn’t require support for forming government.
Analysing current scenario, Congress enjoys majority and seems to be stable.
However, it is facing fight within its own ministers. Congress is unofficially projecting Rahul
Gandhi as future Prime Minister (again evidence of dynasty rule prevailing in Congress).
Political Analyst reasons that this fight within ministers is to influence the high command
of party to solidify their position in future government. This is restricting the present
government to deliver its promise. It’s an irony that even after enjoying a strong position in
centre, Congress government is failing to deliver. This year many scams and scandals have
rocked the government. On the other hand, BJP is still in recovery mode, trying to regain its
position in its so-called base states. It is in search of a strong leader who can be projected as
future Prime Minister and can be accepted as leader of people. Congress, in this matter, has
an edge over BJP.
BJP highlights nationalism as its main ideology, but it is often regarded as communal
and urban party which lacks to communicate with rural people. Lack of party base among
rural India is often regarded as the main reason for BJP’s unexpected defeat in general
election of 2004. On the other hand, Congress is often accused by opposition of playing vote
bank politics and favouring minorities.
On economic front, Congress has failed to curb rising inflation. Even progress on
enhancing basic infrastructure has slowed down. But it has successfully delivered economic
progress in rural areas through schemes like NREGA. BJP, on other hand has always
emphasized on improving basic infrastructure which has greatly boosted trade activities.
However, it failed in delivering economic development in rural areas, which led to its defeat
in general elections of 2004.
There are many regional parties which mushroomed in various parts of based
on regional issues and related politics. The Congress and BJP are untouchables in West
Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Even the so called Congress bastion states like Maharashtra,
Madhya Pradesh, etc have fallen prey to regional politics and Congress has somehow
managed to retain power by forming coalition government. Uttar Pradesh, the state which
can change course of Indian politics with 80 Lok Sabha seats, was once considered as
Congress hometown. After Somnath Rath Yatra and Ayodhya controversies, BJP stormed
this Congress hometown and Congress became minority in UP. However, BJP could not
retain power in UP and regional parties like SP and BSP went far ahead than both BJP and
Congress. These parties hold keys during assembly elections. However, when it comes to
elections for center, it is more or less BJP v/s Congress affair.
From the point of view of stability of government at center (which eventually
leads to better governance), it is important that these two parties hold the key to power
independently rather than depending heavily on regional parties for support. The debate,
Congress v/s BJP, can go on forever. It is left to the people of this country to decide who is
better than other; which is reflected in results of general elections held every five years.
However, in the interest of nation, it is important that this debate remains a two party affair
(Note:- The views expressed above are personal and are not intended to hurt anybody’s