Janata Party

Janata Party

The Janata Party (जनता पार्टी, "People's Party" in Hindi) was an Indian political party that contested the Indian Emergency (1975-77) and became the first political party to defeat the Indian National Congress in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, forming the central government from 1977 to 1980.


The 1974 Court Conviction

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had led her Indian National Congress to a landslide majority in the Parliament of India in the 1971 elections, and after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, her popularity was meteoric.

However accusations of authoritarianism, nepotism and corruption soon emerged, causing strikes and protests across the country. Former freedom fighter Jaya Prakash Narayan alleged that Indira was destroying India's democracy and economy. Unhappiness over slow economic progress, inflation and bureaucratic stagnation intensified public discontent.

In 1974, the Allahabad High Court ruled in a case that the Prime Minister had wrongfully used government machinery in her election campaign in 1971. Thus convicted, opposition parties of across the spectrum called for her immediate resignation, which Indira refused.

J.P. Narayan and his allies organized major protests and strikes across the country, which adversely affected government and the economy. Trade, students and government unions striked, and a large public crowd surrounded the Parliament building and the PM's residence. Narayan received open support from the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Indian National Congress (Organisation). Veteran Congressmen began leaving the party.

Indian Emergency

Prime Minister Gandhi convinced the President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to declare emergency under the Constitution. Using sweeping powers it gave, the police arrested thousands of protestors, including Narayan and his allies.

Although for nearly 2 years India was peaceful and progressive, there was widespread unhappiness with the decision to impose rule by decree. Although it gave India relief from chronic strikes and demonstrations that paralyzed the economy and created unnecessary disorder, hundreds of thousands of people across the country were allegedly arrested without cause and detained for substantial periods without notification to family of their whereabouts. Police abuse, torture and corruption were alleged, and thousands of political prisoners were taken. State media and private publications became mouthpieces for Congress propaganda.

The satyagraha-style protest and arrest of thousands of people evoked sympathy from a population that remembered the sacrifices made during the Indian independence movement. Gradually the lack of democracy and fear of arbitrary arrest and abuse made the Indira administration very unpopular. Unaccountable to the people, the administration began suffering from corruption, which increased disenchantment.

Formation and Election Victory

When Indira Gandhi called elections in 1977, virtually all opposition parties banded together to form the Janata Party, which became a rainbow coalition of diverse political groups. The major ones included the Bharatiya Lok Dal led by Charan Singh, the Congress (O) led by Morarji Desai, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Swatantra Party and the Socialists. An Indira loyalist, Jagjivan Ram deserted her and formed the Congress for Democracy, joining the Janata alliance. The broad spectrum of leaders united under Jaya Prakash Narayan.Chander Shekhar became the first president of the Janta Party.

Although Indira Gandhi had thought that the economic progress and order achieved under Emergency had been popular, the Janata capitalized on public discontent with the lack of free expression and government accountability, the arrest and detentions of large numbers of innocent people as well as charges of gross abuse, corruption and harassment on police and government authorities. Indira's son Sanjay Gandhi and Indira herself were accused of political corruption and abuse of authority.

The Congress for Democracy and BLD emerged with the largest number of seats, and with the outside support of the Communists, Janata held control of 270 seats in the Lok Sabha out of 539, however total seat was 542.

Narayan was asked to select one of three major leaders to become the Prime Minister of India. Narayan selected former freedom fighter and veteran Morarji Desai; Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram would become his Deputy Prime Ministers.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Minister for External Affairs; H.M. Patel became the Finance Minister, and Lal Krishna Advani became the Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, a Janata leader was elected the President of India in 1977 upon the death of the incumbent Fakhruddin Ahmed.

Desai administration (1977-79)

The Desai administration re-established diplomatic relations with China, improved bilateral relations with Pakistan, as well as defended India's nuclear policy on the world stage. It also set up tribunals to investigate Emergency-era abuses and prosecute the guilty.

But with the poor health of J.P. Narayan, Janata lost its unity. Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram wrangled for Desai's job, and the public prosecutions of Indira were backfiring because of lack of evidence and public sympathy for the latter, who was seen as a defenseless woman being attacked by powerful lawmakers. Fractious political bickering prevented the making of any effective policy, and the people began to criticize the Government for its impotence in face of major national problems of poverty, illiteracy and economic stagnation.

Socialists led by Madhu Limaye took a strong stand on the issue of dual membership of Janata party and RSS which eventually led to split in Janata Party. In 1979, A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani resigned from their posts when the RSS and BJS withdrew support from Janata; in June, Prime Minister Desai resigned as Charan Singh threatened to lead BLD out of the coalition.

Charan Singh administration (1979-80)

Retaining some coalition partners, Charan Singh was sworn in as the new Prime Minister in June, as leader of the BLD and the new Janata (Socialist). The President took him in over Morarji Desai because of the loss of trust by parliament in the Desai government. It should be noted that the Jana Sangh and Congress (Organisation) groups were for his reinstatement while the socialist camps and the Lok Dal backed Charan Singh in his bid for the prime ministership. George Fernandes virulently defended the record of the Desai government but later defected to the Charan Singh group. This reduced the numbers of the Desai government even further. However, Charan Singh required the support of the Congress Party of Indira Gandhi, which just months ago had been his greatest rival to form a parliamentary majority. Jagjivan Ram had returned to the Congress. It was alleged that Raj Narain (the health minister) and Sanjay Gandhi had brokered the deal on behalf of Charan Singh.

Gandhi initially promised to back Charan Singh, but later declined. Charan Singh gave up his frantic efforts to form a government, and President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy called fresh elections in January 1980. Charan Singh was retained as the caretaker prime minister and held the dubious distinction of being the only prime minister to not face parliament.


The Congress party won a massive majority after campaigning against the chaos and corruption of the Janata years, epitomized with the slogan: "Elect a Government That Works."

Janata Party suffered various divisions and splits during the 1980s.


The Janata is remembered for leading a popular revolution against an authoritarian government, and for preventing the erosion of democracy and fundamental freedoms in India. It is fondly remembered by politicians of political parties opposing the Indian National Congress, which is even today led by the Nehru-Gandhi family.

But the Janata is also criticized in the same vein by many for its disorder, corruption and inefficiency in solving any of the country's problems. It provided important lessons for India's political system when the "Coalition Age" began with the 1996 elections.

Modern Relation

Those members who had formerly been members of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh formed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and another group formed the Janata Dal. Morarji Desai retired from politics, and Charan Singh was reduced to a regional figure.

During the 1980s there were several groups calling themselves Janata Party. Today there is one group led by liquor baron Vijay Mallya and Dr. Subramanian Swamy claiming the name of JP. The Janata Party has minimum presence in the country and has no presence in the Lok Sabha as of now. The Janata Party has moved closer to the BJP and fought the recent elections in Tamil Nadu and Kerela in alliance with the BJP.Other groups claiming the mantle of the Janata Party are Janata Dal (United) and Janata Dal (Secular). Both have presence in pockets of the country and the former led by Nitish Kumar governs Bihar and is part of the NDA. The latter is led by the former Prime Minister H. D. Devegowda. He is an important player in Karnataka and third front politics.

External links

* [http://www.janataparty.com Party website]

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