Monday 16 October 2023

Class 12 - POLITICAL SCIENCE - Chapter - Era of One-party Dominance #eduvictors #class12PoliticalScience

Era of One-party Dominance

Class 12 - POLITICAL SCIENCE  - Chapter - Study Notes

Class 12 - POLITICAL SCIENCE  - Chapter - Era of One-party Dominance #eduvictors #class12PoliticalScience


Political parties are an indispensable part of the present-day political system. In a modern representative democracy, a political party in one form or another is omnipresent in the political process. The phenomenon of a party is closely linked with the growth of the complexity of political systems in which the notion of political power has come to include the idea that the mass public must participate.

The challenge of building democracy

Democracy was the legacy of the Indian national movement. The leaders of the newly independent India were deeply committed to the idea of democracy. Our leaders were conscious of the critical role of politics in any democracy. They did not see politics as a problem; they saw it as a way of solving the problem. While competition and power are the two most visible things about politics, the purpose of political activity is and should be deciding and pursuing public interest.

  • The Election Commission of India was set up in January 1950, Sukumar Sen became the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • Our Constitution was ready and signed on 26 November 1949 and it came into effect on 26 January 1950.

Congress's dominance in the first three general elections

The first three general elections were held in 1952, 1957, and 1962. The 1952 elections saw a large mass of ignorant and illiterate mass responding to elections. This era was characterised by the monopoly of Congress at the Centre along with the existence of smaller opposition parties.

  • Indian National Congress won the first elections with 364 of the 489 seats and finished way ahead of any other challenger
  • INC's win was due to its legacy of the national movement. The Communist Party of India came next in terms of seats winning only 16 seats
  • Even state elections took place after the Lok Sabha elections and also Congress emerged as the winner in all the states except Travancore-Cochin, Madras and Orissa but later in these states Congress government was also formed
  • In the State assembly elections, the Congress did not get the majority in a few cases and one of the most significant was in Kerala where the Communist Party formed the government in 1957
  • Likewise in the 1962 elections, Congress got over 44.7% of votes and over 73% of the seats. There was a wide gap in the popular vote share and seat share of Congress and other opposition parties
  • In the second and the third general elections held in 1957 and 1962 respectively,             Congress maintained the same position in Lok Sabha by winning three-fourth seats.

Reasons for Congress's dominance in the first three elections

The Indian National Congress had unique political accomplishments. The principles guided the nation. The Congress dominated the Indian political scenario from 1947 to 1967. The factors responsible for its dominance included:

  1. Inheritance of the national movement – The Congress party had inherited the vast and enriched legacy from the national movement. Many leaders who were at the forefront of the freedom struggle were now contesting as Congress candidates in the elections. These leaders had already won the confidence of the people. Congress was seen as a party that brought freedom to the country.
  2. Charismatic personality of the Prime Minister – In Jawaharlal Nehru the party had the most popular and charismatic leader in Indian politics. He led the campaign and toured through the country.
  3. Well-organised party with first-off-the-block advantage – It was a well-organised party and had first-off-the-block advantage. By the time the other parties could think of a strategy, the Congress had already started its campaign. It had an organisational network down to the local level, which made it a grassroots party well connected to the people.
  4. Coalition of all social and economic classes - It was a mass political party bringing into its fold diverse social and economic classes - peasants and industrialists, urban dwellers and villagers, workers and owners, middle, lower and upper classes and castes.
  5. Coalition of different ideologies and beliefs - Many ideological groups merged their identities with Congress. It accommodated revolutionists and pacifists, conservatives and radicals, extremists and moderates and right, left and all other shades of the country.
  6. Congress performance in the first three elections – The extent of victory of the Congress in the first three general elections was phenomenal. None of the opposition parties could win even a 10th of the number of seats won by Congress.
  7. Management of Conflicts and Factions – Because of its coalition-like nature Congress avoided taking any extreme position and struck a balance on almost all issues. It successfully accommodated all the factions. Anything that the opposition wanted to say already found a place in Congress.

Nature of Congress dominance/ How one-party dominance in India was different from the one-party dominance in other countries?

India is not the only country to have experienced the dominance of one party but the dominance of Congress is different from one-party dominance elsewhere in the world.

  • In some countries, the dominance of one party was ensured by compromising democracy.
  • In countries like China, Cuba and Syria the constitution permits only a single party to rule the country.
  • Some others like Egypt, Myanmar, Belarus, etc are effectively one-party states due to legal and military measures. In Mexico, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) dominated for almost six decades. But during this period most of the time undemocratic means were used by the PRI to win elections. Elections were not free and fair.
  • In contrast to all the above countries, Congress exercised dominance totally under democratic conditions.
  • Many parties contested elections in conditions of free and fair elections and yet the Congress managed to win election after election.
  • The roots of this extraordinary success of the Congress party go back to the legacy of freedom struggle, well-knit organisation and adjustment to circumstances.
  • It made the Congress the dominant party in a democratic system as opposed to the monopoly of one party in other states like China, Cuba etc.

Communist victory in Kerala

  • In the State assembly elections, Congress did not get a majority in a few states. As early as in 1957, the Congress party had the bitter taste of defeat in Kerala.
  • The Communist Party won the largest number of seats in Kerala legislature.
  • The party won 160 of the 126 seats and had the support of 5 Independents.
  • The Governor invited E.M.S Namboodiripad the leader of the Communist Legislature party to form the ministry.
  • First time in the world, a Communist party government had come to power through democratic elections.
  • The CPI had come to power on the promise of carrying out radical and progressive policy measures.
  • In 1959, the Congress government at the Centre dismissed the Communist government in Kerala under Article 356 of the Constitution. This decision became controversial and is said to be the first misuse of the Constitutional provision.

Case of Mexico

  • Mexico's party the Revolutionary Party later renamed the Institutional Revolutionary Party was founded in 1929, and remained in power for 6 decades.
  • Originally PRI was a mixture of various interests including political and military leaders, labour and peasant organisations and numerous political parties.
  • Over some time Plutarco Elias Calles, the founder of PRI was able to capture the organisation and thereby the government.
  • Elections were held regularly and it was PRI which won every time because they manipulated the electoral laws.
  • Elections were often rigged and manipulated by the ruling party.
  • Finally, the party lost in the Presidential elections held in 2000 and Mexico is no longer one-party dominated country.

Congress as a social and ideological coalition

Congress had emerged as a pressure group of intellectuals, professionals and commercial classes in the 20th century. The Congress began as a party dominated by the English-speaking upper caste, upper middle class and urban elite. But with every civil disobedience movement it launched, its social base widened.

  • It brought together diverse groups, whose interests were often contradictory.
  • Peasants and industrialists, urban developers and villages, workers and owners, middle, lower and upper classes and castes, all found space in the Congress.
  • Gradually its leadership also expanded beyond the upper caste professionals to agriculture-based leaders with the rural orientation.
  • By independence, the Congress was transformed into a rainbow-like social coalition broadly representing India’s diversity.
  • Many of these groups merged their identity within the Congress.
  • The Congress was an ideological coalition in the sense that it accommodated revolutionary and pacifist, conservative and radical, extremist and moderate and the right, left and all shades of the Centre.
  • The Congress was a platform for numerous groups, interests and even political parties to take part in the national movement.

Tolerance and management of factions by the Congress

The coalition-like character of the Congress gave it an unusual strength. The advantages of the coalition are:

  • Firstly, the coalition accommodates all those who join it. Therefore, it has to avoid any extreme position and strike a balance on almost all issues.
  • Compromise and inclusiveness are the hallmarks of a coalition which puts the opposition in difficulty.
  • In a party that has the nature of a coalition, there is a greater tolerance of internal differences and the ambitions of various groups and leaders are accommodated.
  • The Congress did both these things during the freedom struggle and continued doing this even after independence.

What are Factions?

  • The various groups inside the party are called factions.
  • The coalition nature of the Congress party tolerated and in fact, encouraged various factions.

Why do factions add strength to Congress?

  • Instead of being a weakness, internal factionalism became a strength of the Congress.
  • Most of the state units of the Congress were made up of numerous factions.
  • The factions took different ideological positions making the Congress appear as a grand centrist party.
  • The other parties primarily attempted to influence these factions and thereby indirectly influence policy and decision-making from the ‘margins’.
  • The system of factions functioned as a balancing mechanism within the ruling party.
  • Political competition took place within the Congress and therefore Congress acted as both the ruling party as well as the opposition.
  • That is why this period of Indian politics has been described as the ‘Congress system’.

Emergence and role of Opposition parties

India had several political parties at the time of Independence. Though these parties did not have much electoral gains, they were quite vibrant. Most of these parties had been active before 1952. Some of these parties played an important role in the politics of the country in the 60s and 70s.

  1. Token representation – All these opposition parties succeeded in gaining only a token representation in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies during this period. Yet their presence played a crucial role in maintaining the democratic character of the system.
  2. Sustained and principled opposition – These parties offered a sustained and often principled criticism of the policies and practises of the Congress party. This kept the ruling party under check and often changed the balance of power within the Congress.
    By keeping democratic political alternatives alive, these parties prevented the resentment of the system from turning anti-democratic.
  3. Groomed future political leaders – These parties also groomed the leaders who were to play a crucial role in the shaping of our country.
  4. Mutual respect between leaders of Congress and opposition parties – In the early years there was a lot of mutual respect between the leaders of the Congress and those of the opposition.


  • Thus this first phase of democratic politics in our country was quite unique.
  • The inclusive character of the national movement led by the Congress enabled it to attract different sections, groups and interests, making it a broad-based social and ideological coalition.
  • The key role of the Congress in the freedom struggle thus gives it a head start over others


    • The Congress Socialist Party was formed within the Congress in 1934 by a group of young leaders who wanted a more radical and egalitarian Congress.
    • In 1948, the Congress amended its constitution to prevent its members from having dual membership. This forced the Socialists to form a separate Socialist Party in 1948.

    SYMBOL – Tree
    FOUNDER – Acharya Narendra Dev
    YEAR – 1948
    OTHER LEADERS – Jayaprakash Narayan, Achyut patwardhan, Asoka Mehta, Rammanohar Lohia, S. M. Joshi

    Class 12 - POLITICAL SCIENCE  - Chapter - Era of One-party Dominance #eduvictors #class12PoliticalScience


    • The socialists believed in the ideology of democratic socialism which distinguished them both from the Congress and the Communists.
    • They criticised the Congress for favouring capitalists and landlords and for ignoring the workers and peasants.

    The socialist party went through many splits and reunions leading to the formation of many socialist parties like the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party, the Praja Socialist Party and the Samyukta Socialist Party.

    • In the early 1920s communist groups emerged in different parts of India taking inspiration from the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and advocating socialism as a solution to problems affecting the country.
    • From 1935, the communists worked mainly from within the fold of the Indian National Congress.
    • A parting of ways took place in December 1941, when the Communists decided the support the British in the war against Nazi Germany.
    • Unlike other non-Congress parties, the CPI had a well-oiled party machinery and dedicated cadre at the time of independence.

    SYMBOL – Sickle and Paddy
    FOUNDER – M.N. Roy
    YEAR – 1925
    OTHER LEADERS – A. K. Gopalan, S.A. Dang, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, P.C. Joshi, Ajay Ghosh, P. Sundarraya

    Class 12 - POLITICAL SCIENCE  - Chapter - Era of One-party Dominance #eduvictors #class12PoliticalScience


    • Communists believed that the transfer of power in 1947 was not true independence and encouraged violent uprisings in Telangana,
    • In 1951 the Communist Party abandoned the path of violent revolution and decided to participate in the approaching general elections.
    • In the first general election, CPI won 16 seats and emerged as the largest opposition party.
    • The party's support was more concentrated in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Kerala.
    • The party went through a major split in 1954 following the ideological rift between the Soviet Union and China. The pro-Soviet faction remained as CPI, while the opponents formed the CPI(M).

    • Bharatiya Jan Sangh’s lineage can be traced back to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) and Hindu Mahasabha before independence.
    • The Bharatiya Janta Party traces its roots to the Bharatiya Jana Sangha.
    • Class 12 - POLITICAL SCIENCE  - Chapter - Era of One-party Dominance #eduvictors #class12PoliticalScience

      SYMBOL – Diya
      FOUNDER PRESIDENT – Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
      YEAR – 1951
      OTHER LEADERS - Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Balraj Madhok


    • It emphasized the idea of one country, one culture one nation and believed that the country could become modern, progressive and strong based on Indian culture and traditions.
    • The party called for a reunion of India and Pakistan in Akhand Bharat.
    • The party was at the forefront of the agitation to replace English with Hindi as the official language of India and was also opposed to the granting of concessions to religious and cultural minorities.
    • It also advocated India developing nuclear weapons

  5. Class 12 - POLITICAL SCIENCE  - Chapter - Era of One-party Dominance #eduvictors #class12PoliticalScience

    The party stood out from others in terms of its position on economic issues.

    SYMBOL – Star
    FOUNDER – C. Rajagopalachari
    YEAR – 1959 (after the Nagpur resolution of Congress which called for land ceilings)
    OTHER LEADERS - C. Rajagopalachari, K.M. Munshi, N.G. Ranga, Minoo Masani


    • Wanted the government to be less and less involved in controlling the economy.
    • It believes that prosperity can come only through individual freedom. Was critical of the development strategy of state intervention in the economy, centralised planning, nationalization and public sector.
    • Critical of the policy of non-alignment and maintaining friendly relations with the Soviet Union and closer ties with the USA. 
    • It was against the land ceiling in agriculture cooperative farming and state trading. 
    • Also against progressive tax regime and demanded the dismantling of the licensing regime.

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