29.Short Essay and Article on ERA OF ONE PARTY DOMINANCE


**Challenges of building democracy: Despite all odds, India decided to choose the democratic path of nation-building after getting independence. Our leaders didn’t see politics as a problem rather saw it as a means to solve the problems. The biggest test before Indian leadership was to install a democratically elected government of the country. The Election Commission of India was set up in 1950 with Sukumar Sen as the first Chief Election Commissioner.

*Challenges before the Election Commission: The Election Commission Of India faced numerous challenges in conducting the First General Election based on the universal adult franchise:

First, the election required delimitation or drawing the boundaries of the electoral constituencies. A Delimitation Commission was set up for this purpose.

Secondly, it was also required to prepare the electoral rolls or the list of all eligible voters which was a mammoth task. When the first draft of the rolls was published it was found that nearly 40 lakh women were recorded as` wife of’…, `daughter of… ‘.The commission had to order for the revision of these lists which took a lot of time.

Thirdly the election had to be conducted based on the universal adult franchise with 17 crore eligible voters.N o election on this scale had ever been conducted in the world before. It was perhaps the biggest challenge for Indian democracy to hold such election in a poor and illiterate country.

Fourthly, to conduct the election on such a large scale needed proper training for lakhs of officers and polling staff.

**First General Election: A landmark incident: The successful conduction of the First General Election in India in 1952 became a landmark in the history of democracy all over the world.

*The level of participation was encouraging with more than 50 per cent voters’ turnout in a country with hardly 15 per cent literate voters.

*The results of the election were accepted as fair even by the losers.

*The outcomes of this election also impressed the critics who had expressed their concern, the introduction of the universal adult franchise as too risky.

*This election also proved that democracy could be practised anywhere in the world even in a country with mass poverty and illiteracy.

**Congress dominance in the first three general elections: The Indian National Congress dominated the first three general elections held in 1952, 1957 and 1962 by winning almost three fourth seats in the Lok Sabha. Its success was the result of the following reasons:

*Legacy of the national movement: The Congress party had inherited the legacy of the national movement of India as a party which had brought independence for the country. This was the main reason for its countrywide popularity.

*Strong organization: Compared to the opposition, the Congress had a well-knit organization across the country since the freedom struggle which helped the party to maintain its dominance.

*Charismatic leadership: The party was led by charismatic leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru. The other leaders of the party were well-known figures and very popular among the people.

*First past the Post system of election: This system of the election also helped the Congress to maintain its dominance. The party never got even 50 per cent popular votes but managed to win more seats than its proportional share of votes as the majority of votes got divided among different opposition parties.

*Weak opposition: The opposition parties were weak and divided. Many of them had been formed just after independence. Thus the Congress had the ‘first off the block advantage’. After the first general election, the largest opposition party was the Communist Party of India with only 16 seats in the Lok Sabha.

** Nature of Congress dominance: Although one-party dominance can be seen in many countries of the world, but there is a crucial difference between these and the Indian experience.

*In other countries like China, Cuba, Mexico, Syria etc. the dominance of one party was ensured by compromising democracy. But in India, the Congress managed its dominance by contesting elections in democratic conditions.

*In China, Cuba and Syria the constitution permits only a single party to rule the country whereas in Mexico and other countries a single party dominance was maintained by rigging the elections.

*Congress managed to win by contesting free and fair elections based on a multi-party system.

 **Congress as social and ideological coalition:

*Congress started as a party dominated by English speaking upper class and upper-middle-class urban elite. But gradually with every civil disobedience movement, the party widened its social base by including various social groups such as peasants, workers, industrialists, landlords, lower and upper classes under its fold.

*Gradually its leadership also expanded to include agriculture-based leaders with rural orientation.

*The party also represented various castes, religious and linguistic groups.

*The party also accommodated various ideologies within its fold. The revolutionaries, pacifists, conservatives, radicals, moderates and extremists, right and left, all existed within the party fold.

*Despite differences regarding the policies, programmes and methods within its fold the party managed to build a consensus.

**Tolerance and management of factions:

*The coalition character of the Congress party allowed it to avoid any extreme position and strike a balance on almost all issues.

*Compromise and inclusiveness were the hallmarks of the Party.

*This strategy also put the opposition in difficulty as their programmes also got a place in the Congress ideology and programmes.

*The party showed a greater tolerance for differences of opinion and ambitions of different factions within it. This allowed the groups who were not happy with the position of the party to remain within the party and fight the other groups rather than leaving the party.

**Emergence and the role of the opposition:

*In the initial years of democratic politics in India the opposition parties had a token representation in the legislatures but they played a crucial role in maintaining the democratic character of the system.

*These parties offered a principled and sustained criticism of the policies and programmes of the ruling party.

*This kept the ruling party under check and often changed the balance of power within the Congress.

*By keeping political alternative alive they prevented the resentment within the system from turning anti-democratic.

*These parties also groomed the leaders who were to play a crucial role in the shaping of our country.  

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