The Apt Reply from the Nation

But a self-confident and arrogant Indira Gandhi was in for a surprise, when just a month before the elections, several prominent leaders from her Congress party, headed by the most senior minister in her cabinet, Jagjivan Ram, resigned and joined the Opposition. This sealed her fate. The resignations boosted the morale of the Opposition and encouraged the common people to shed fear and speak their minds. During the poll campaign, the hitherto-suppressed news of police brutality, forcible sterilization and bulldozing of slums came out in public gaze. With this exposure, the majority of the electorate turned decidedly against Indira Gandhi's Congress. In the 1977 March parliamentary election, of an electorate of 320 million, roughly 60 percent voted Indira Gandhi's Congress out of power. She herself, along with her son Sanjay and other important ministers, suffered defeat at the polls. The 1977 election brought for the first time a non-Congress government in New Delhi. Ever since its independence in August 1947 , it had been ruled by the Congress, first led by Jawaharlal Nehru, and then by his daughter Indira (barring a brief interlude after Nehru's death in 1964 when Sh Lal Bahadur Shastri became the prime minister for a while).

The end of the Emergency, brought about by the 1977 election thus inaugurated a new political era in the Indian political scene, putting an end to the hegemonic Congressdomination and opening up opportunities for alternative political forces to make their presence felt at the center of power in New Delhi.

The Timeline

  • June 25, 1975: Emergency declared, censorship imposed and opposition leaders arrested.
  • August 5, 1975: MISA bill approved by the parliament.
  • September 26, 1975: Thirty-ninth Amendment of the Indian Constitution placing election of Prime Minister beyond the scrutiny of judiciary approved
  • January 9, 1976: The government suspends seven freedoms guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
  • February 4, 1976: Lok Sabha's life extended by one year.
  • November 2, 1976: Lok Sabha passes Forty-second amendment of the Indian Constitution Bill making India socialist secular republic and laying down fundamental duties of citizens
  • January 18, 1977: The President dissolves Lok Sabha
  • March 21, 1977: Emergency promulgated on June 25, 1975 withdrawn.
  • March 22, 1977: Janata Party gains absolute majority.

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