The Indian parliament follows a bicameral system. It has two houses, namely the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) & the Loksabha (Lower House). The party (or a coalition) that gets a majority in the Loksabha gets to form the central government. The term of office is for a maximum period of 5 years or until such time the party (or a coalition) enjoys a majority in the Loksabha, whichever is earlier. Here is a look at the history of Lok Sabha Elections since independence. The data is sourced from the statistical reports of the Election Commission of India.
The Constituent Assembly (1946-49):
The Constituent Assembly, consisted of indirectly elected representatives and was set up for the purpose of drafting a constitution for India. It remained in being for almost three years, acting as the first parliament of India after independence in 1947. The Assembly was not elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage; also Muslims and Sikhs were given special representation as minorities. The Constituent Assembly took almost three years (two years, eleven months and seventeen days to be precise) to complete its historic task of drafting the Constitution for Independent India.
The First Loksabha (1952-57):
It was the first ever election in the Indian Republic. Elections were held for 489 seats.The total number of eligible voters were about 17.3 crore. The Indian National Congress (INC) won 364. Only two other parties won double digit seats.The CPI with 16 seats and the Socialist Party with 12 seats. The Congress polled closed to 45% of the total vote. The Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS), the previous avatar of the BJP won only 3 seats. Independents won the second highest number of seats after Congress. Jawaharlal Nehru was elected the Prime Minister.
The Second Loksabha (1957-62):
Out of 494 seats, the Indian National Congress (INC) won 371. Only two other parties won double digit seats.The CPI with 27 seats and the Praja Socialist Party (PSP) with 19 seats. The Congress polled closed to 48% of the total vote. The BJS won only 4 seats. Once again, the Independents won the second highest number of seats after Congress. Jawaharlal Nehru was again elected the Prime Minister. There was no official Leader of Opposition during the second Loksabha (LoP).
The Third Loksabha (1962-67):
Out of 494 seats, the Indian National Congress (INC) won 361. In these elections, four other parties won double digit seats (CPI, Jan Sangh, Swatantra Party & PSP). The Congress vote share was reduced to about 45% from 48% in the previous election. Jawaharlal Nehru was elected the Prime Minister. But after he passed away in 1964, Gulzari lal Nanda was made the interim PM who was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri who held the post for about 19 months before his death. Indira Gandhi then took over in 1966.
The Fourth Loksabha (1967-70):
The size of electorate in this election was about 25 crore. The Congress party under Indira Gandhi’s leadership won a 4th successive term to office by winning 283 out of 520 seats. But the vote share of Congress went down to about 41%. In these elections, six other parties won double digit seats with C Rajagopala Chari’s Swatantra Party winning 44 seats and emerging as the single largest opposition party. Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister for the second time.
The Fifth Loksabha (1971-77):
This was the first election after Indira Gandhi broke away from the Congress. Her party won a whopping 352 seats out of 518 with the other faction of Congress under Morarji Desai winning only 16 seats. Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister for the third time. It was during this time in 1975, that the emergency was imposed in the country that had a huge impact on the politics of India thereafter.
The Sixth Loksabha (1977-79):
These were the first elections after the emergency. Bharatiya Lok Dal (or the Janata party) emerged victorius in these elections defeating the congress for the first time.The BLD was formed at the end of 1974 through the fusion of seven parties opposed to the autocratic rule of Indira Gandhi, including the Swatantra Party, the Utkal Congress, the Bharatiya Kranti Dal, and the Socialist Party. In 1977, the BLD combined with the Jan Sangh and the Indian National Congress (Organization) to form the Janata Party. The newly formed Janata Party contested the 1977 elections on the BLD symbol and formed independent India’s first government not ruled by the Indian National Congress. The BLD won 295 of the 542 seats while congress could win only 154. Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister, but had to step down in 1979 after couple of parties in the Janata alliance pulled out. He was succeeded by Charan Singh.
The Seventh Loksabha (1980-84):
After the failure of the Janata experiment, Congress(I) under the leadership of Indira Gandhi bounced back to power winning a handsome 353 of the 529 seats on offer. The parties of the earlier Janata coalition could not repeat their performance in the previous election. There was no Leader of Opposition (LoP).
The Eighth Loksabha (1984-89):
After Indira Gandhi was assasinated,the anti-Sikh riots broke out in 1984. They were a series of pogroms directed against Sikhs in India, by anti-Sikh mobs, in response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Riding on the wave of sympathy, the Congress party under Rajiv Gandhi’s leadership (son of Indira Gandhi) came to power in a landslide victory.The Congress won 404 of the 514 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made its electoral debut winning 2 seats, one in Gujarat and another in Andhra Pradesh (Now Telangana). Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister
The Ninth Loksabha (1989-91):
The Bofors scandal,LTTE and other issues worked against the Congress. There was a hung house for the first time with no party getting a majority. The Congress won 197, The Janata Dal 143 and the BJP 85 out of 529 seats. The BJP made impressive gains. The Janata Dal formed the National Front government with outside support from BJP and the left parties. Vishwanath Pratap Singh (VP Singh) became the Prime Minister. His rival in the Janata Dal, Chandra Shekhar broke away in 1990 and formed the Samajwadi Janata Party. As a result, VP Singh had to step down. Chandra Shekhar then became the Prime Minister in 1990 with the external support of Congress. Even this experiment lasted only for a shortwhile forcing general elections in just 2 years.
The Tenth Loksabha (1991-96):
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in the run upto the 1991 general elections by the LTTE. These elections were also termed as the ‘Mandal-Mandir’ elections after the two most important poll issues; the Mandal Commission fallout and the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue.While the Mandal Commission report implemented by the VP Singh government gave 27 per cent reservation to the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in government jobs, the Mandir issue referred to the debate over the disputed Babri Masjid structure at Ayodhya, which the Bharatiya Janata Party was using as its major electoral issue.The Mandir issue led to numerous riots in many parts of the country and the electorate was polarized on caste and religious lines. No party could get a majority. Congress emerged as the single largest party with 232 seats while the BJP won 120 seats out of 521 seats. P V Narasimha Rao headed a minority government and was the first person from South India to occupy the Prime Minister’s chair. He is credited with ushering in economic reforms and also identifying Manmohan Singh who went onto become the Prime Minister.
The Eleventh Loksabha (1996-98):
The Indian National Congress came into the election on the back of several government scandals and accusations of mishandling. There were various factions within the congress. The BJP grew from strength to strength and emerged as the single largest party in a hung house. The BJP won 161 eats, Congress 140 and the Janata Dal 46. The rise of regional parties started with this election. The regional parties won 129 seats. Prominent among them were TDP, Shivsena & the DMK. As per the prevailing custom, the President invited BJP to form the government. The BJP attempted to build a coalition, but could not go far and Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to resign as the PM in 13 days. His resignation address in the Loksabha is well known. The Congres Party declined to form the government but chose to extend outside support to Janata Dal and other smaller parties that formed into the ‘United Front’. Out of nowhere, H D Devegowda became the Prime Minister and he lasted for 18 months before he had to step down and make way for I K Gujral. He also could not last long following differences within the Janata Dal.
The Twelfth Loksabha (1998-99):
The BJP emerged as the single largest party with 182 seats out of 543. Congress won 141 and the other regional parties won 101 seats. The BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with other regional parties. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the second time. His government could not last long and he had to resign after 13 months in office after the AIADMK withdrew support. The NDA lost by just one vote when Dr. Giridhar Gamang, the then Chief Minister of Odisha and also a MP, voted against the NDA. The nuclear tests at Pokhran, The Kargil war were some of the important incidents in this term.
The Thirteenth Loksabha (1999-2004):
These elections were held in the backdrop of the Kargil war. The BJP again emerged as the single largest party with 182 seats while the congress could win only 114. This time the regional parties won 158 seats. The BJP was able to form a more stable NDA this time around and this was the first time that a non congress alliance lasted a full five year term. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the third time.
The Fourteenth Loksabha (2004-09):
The BJP went in for early elections alongside launching an ‘India Shining’ campaign. Though it could win the middle class vote, the poorer sections voted for the Congress and other regional parties resulting in the defeat of the NDA. The BJP could win only 138 seats while the Congress improved its tally to 145. The regional parties again ruled the roost with 159 seats. The BJP conceded defeat and the Congress then formed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) with support from other parties and outside support from the left parties. Sonia Gandhi refused to become the Prime Minister amidst the controversy about her foreign origin. Manmohan Singh was chosen as the Prime Minister.
The Fifteenth Loksabha (2009-14):
The Congress led UPA implemented a lot of its promises including the enactment of Right to Information (RTI) & the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). It also waived off farm loans in 2008. Against this background, it went into the polls in 2009. The NDA on the other hand was led by L K Advani. The Congress won 206 seats, a huge improvement from 2004. The BJP could win only 116. The regional parties won 146 seats. The UPA came to power for the second term in a row. Dr. Manmohan Singh was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the second time.
The Sixteenth Loksabha (2014-19):
The second term of the UPA proved to be a disaster with numerous allegations of corruption & scams. 2G, Coal Block, Adarsh, Commonwealth Games to name a few. The silence of the Prime Minister and the perception that he had no real power made matters worse. The BJP was successfully able to project Narendra Modi as the man of the hour and also as its Prime Ministerial candidate. Rahul Gandhi could not match Narendra Modi. The BJP won majority on its own with 282 seats while the Congress recorded its worst ever performance with just 44 seats. This was the first time since 1984 that a party won a majority on its own.
The Seventeenth Loksabha (2014-19):
Riding the wave of Nationalism, popular schemes and the lack of an alternative leader who can match Narendra Modi, the BJP romped home with an increased mandate. Narendra Modi led BJP won 303 seats on its own and crossed the 350 mark with its NDA allies. Narendra Modi became only the 3rd person in India’s history to have secured a single party majority two times in a row, after Jawaharlal Nehru & Indira Gandhi. The Congress received a drubbing again winning only 52 seats. Congress President Rahul Gandhi even lost the election from Amethi.