India's Election and Economic Prospects

January 18, 1967

Report Outline
Indian Politics on the Eve of Elections
Economic Progress of Independent India
India's Need of Foreign Assistance
Special Focus

Indian Politics on the Eve of Elections

Transition to a New Political Era in India

India—now in its 20th year as the world's most populous democracy—is to hold its fourth general election in the middle of February. The Indian electorate, 240 million strong, will go to the polls between Feb. 15 and Feb. 21 to choose 521 members of the lower house of Parliament (the Lok Sabha) and members of the legislative assemblies of 17 Indian states.

The election forecast is for continued dominance of the Congress Party at New Delhi and in the majority of state capitols. Formed in 1885 to spearhead the movement for Indian independence, Congress—the party of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru—has governed the nation since it was freed from British rule in 1947. Observers expect that the Party's share of the national vote, 45–48 per cent in previous elections, may drop this year. Traditional opposition parties in several states have gained strength. Rebel Congress parties have been formed in four states. And dissidents within the Congress Party announced early last December that they would form a new opposition party at the national level after the elections. The new group is to be called the People's Congress.

Not only is the Congress Party being more seriously challenged than in any of the three previous general elections. In a sense, the campaign, now entering its final weeks, marks the beginning of a new political era in India. Missing from the list of candidates for the first time is the last of the three giants of the movement for India's independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, prime minister from the nation's birth until his death on May 27, 1984. With Mohandas K. Gandhi, spiritual leader of India's millions in the final decades of British rule, and S. V. Patel, deputy prime minister in the early days of statehood, Nehru dominated India's political scene during a large part of the century. After the death of Gandhi early in 1948 and of Patel late in 1950, Nehru's supremacy in the Congress Party and the nation went unchallenged for more than a decade.

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