Class 12 Political Science Chapter 2 Era of One-party Dominance NCERT Notes

Share this:

Class 12 Political Science Chapter 2 Era of One-party Dominance NCERT Notes are an excellent way to become familiar with the chapter and will be a useful in understanding difficult concepts. The notes will cover all the important aspects of the topic, including the definition and key concepts.

To help ensure a successful exam experience, it is important to have access to reliable resources that provide comprehensive yet concise data. Thus, these Era of One-party Dominance Class 12 Political Science II Textbook NCERT notes are very useful in making you memorize things easily and quickly.

Chapter 2 Era of One-party Dominance Class 12 Political Science II CBSE NCERT Notes


In this chapter, we look at the first decade of electoral politics in order to understand the domination of the Congress party in the years immediately after Independence and the emergence of opposition parties and their policies.

Also, we will see the establishment of a system of free and fair elections.

Challenge of Building Democracy

Faced with serious challenges, leaders in many other countries of the world decided that their country could not afford to have democracy.

They said that national unity was their first priority and that democracy will introduce differences and conflicts.

Many of the countries that gained freedom from colonialism experienced non-democratic rule-nominal democracy but effective control by one leader, one party rule or direct army rule.

Non-democratic regimes always started with a promise of restoring democracy very soon. But once
they established themselves, it was very difficult to dislodge them.

The leaders of the newly independent India decided to take the more difficult path. Any other path would have been surprising, for our freedom struggle was deeply committed to the idea of democracy.

Our leaders did not see politics as a problem; they saw it as a way of solving the problems.

  • Every society needs to decide how it will govern and regulate itself.
  • There are always different policy alternatives to choose from.
  • There are different groups with different and conflicting aspirations.
  • Democratic politics would solve such differences.
  • 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 Constitution was ready and signed on 26 November 1949 and it came into effect on 26 January 1950. Now necessary to install the first democratically elected government of the country. The country was being ruled by an interim government.

The Election Commission of India was set up in January 1950. Sukumar Sen- 1st Chief Election Commissioner. The country’s first general elections were expected sometime in 1950 itself.

Problems for a free and fair election in a country of India’s size

  • Delimitation or drawing the boundaries of the electoral constituencies
  • Preparing the electoral rolls, or the list of all the citizens eligible to vote.
  • When the first draft of the rolls was published, it was discovered that the names of nearly 40 lakh
  • women were not recorded in the list-simply listed as “wife of…” or “daughter of …”. The Election Commission refused to accept these entries and ordered a revision if possible and deletion if necessary.
  • Only 15 percent of these eligible voters were literate.
  • EC had to think of some special method of voting- trained over 3 lakh officers and polling staff to conduct the elections.
  • First general election was also the first big test of democracy in a poor and illiterate country.

Till then democracy had existed only in the prosperous countries, mainly in Europe and North America, where nearly everyone was literate.

By that time many countries in Europe had not given voting rights to all women. India’s experiment with universal adult franchise appeared very bold and risky.

The elections had to be postponed twice and finally held from October 1951 to February 1952. This election is referred to as the 1952 election since most parts of the country voted in January 1952.

  • Took six months for the campaigning, polling and counting to be completed.
  • Elections were competitive with more than four candidates for each seat.
  • More than half the eligible voters turned out to vote on the day of elections.
  • When the results were declared these were accepted as fair even by the losers.

The elections were huge success. Observers outside India were equally impressed. It was no longer possible to argue that democratic elections could not be held in conditions of poverty or lack of education. It proved that democracy could be practiced anywhere in the world.

Changing Methods of Voting

In the first general election, it was decided to place inside each polling booth a box for each candidate with the election symbol of that candidate.

  • Each voter was given a blank ballot paper which they had to drop into the box of the candidate they wanted to vote for.
  • Each box had to have its candidate’s symbol, both inside and outside it, and outside on either side, had to be displayed the name of the candidate in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi along with the number of the constituency, the polling station and the polling booth.
  • The paper seal with the numerical description of the candidate, signed by the presiding officer, had to be inserted in the token frame and its window closed by its door which had to be fixed in its place at the other end by means of a wire.
  • All this had to be done on the day previous to the one fixed for polling.
  • To fix symbols and labels the boxes had first to be rubbed with sandpaper or a piece of brick.

After the first two elections, the ballot paper carried the names and symbols of all the candidates and the voter was required to put a stamp on the name of the candidate they wanted to vote for.

Towards the end of 1990s the Election Commission started using the EVM. By 2004 the entire country had shifted to the EVM.

Congress dominance in the first three general elections

The Indian National Congress was expected to win the 1st general election because they inherited the legacy of the national movement.

Only party then to have an organisation spread all over the country. In Jawaharlal Nehru, the party had the most popular and charismatic leader in Indian politics.

He led the Congress campaign and toured through the country.

The extent of the victory of the Congress was artificially boosted by our electoral system.

The party ruled all over the country at the national and the state level.

The party won 364 of the 489 seats in the first Lok Sabha and finished way ahead of any other challenger. The Communist Party of India that came next in terms of seats won only 16 seats.

The state elections were held with the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress scored big victory in those elections as well. It won a majority of seats in all the states except Travancore-Cochin (part of today’s Kerala), Madras and Orissa. Jawaharlal Nehru became the Prime Minister after the first general election.

In the second and the third general elections, held in 1957 and 1962 respectively, the Congress maintained the same position in the Lok Sabha by winning three-fourth of the seats.

None of the opposition parties could win even one-tenth of the number of seats won by the Congress. In the state assembly elections, the Congress did not get majority in a few cases.

Kerala in 1957 when a coalition led by the CPI formed the government. The Congress controlled the national and all the state governments.

The extent of the victory of the Congress was artificially boosted by our electoral system. The Congress won three out of every four seats but it did not get even half of the votes. In 1952, the party obtained 45 per cent of the total votes, managed to win 74 percent of the seats.

The Socialist Party, the second largest party in terms of votes, secured more than 10 per cent of the votes all over the country, could not even win three per cent of the seats.

In this system of election, that has been adopted in our country, the party that gets more votes than others tends to get much more than its proportional share.

If we add up the votes of all the non-Congress candidates it was more than the votes of the Congress. But the non-Congress votes were divided between different rival parties and candidates.

Congress was still way ahead of the opposition and managed to win.

Communist victory in Kerala

In the assembly elections held in March 1957, the Communist Party won the largest number of seats to the Kerala legislature.

The party won 60 of the 126 seats and had the support of five independents.

The governor invited E. M. S. Namboodiripad, the leader of the Communist legislature party, to form the ministry.

For the first time in the world, a Communist party government had come to power through democratic elections.

On losing power in the State, the Congress party began a ‘liberation struggle’ against the elected government.

The CPI had come to power on the promise of carrying out radical and progressive policy measures.

The Communists claimed that the agitation was led by vested interests and religious organisations.

In 1959 the Congress government at the Centre dismissed the Communist government in Kerala under Article 356 of the Constitution.

This decision proved very controversial and was widely cited as the first instance of the misuse of constitutional emergency powers.

Nature of congress dominance

India is not the only country to have experienced the dominance of one party. In the rest of the cases the dominance of one party was ensured by compromising democracy.

In China, Cuba and Syria, the constitution permits only a single party to rule the country.

Myanmar, Belarus, Egypt, and Eritrea are effectively one-party states due to legal and military measures.

Until a few years ago, Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan were also effectively one-party dominant states. India- happened under democratic conditions.

Many parties contested elections in conditions of free and fair elections and yet the Congress managed to win election after election.

Similar to the dominance the African National Congress has enjoyed in South Africa after the end of apartheid.

The roots of the extraordinary success of the Congress party go back to the legacy of the freedom struggle.

  • Congress was seen as inheritor of the national movement.
  • Many leaders who were in the forefront of that struggle were now contesting elections as Congress candidates.
  • The Congress was already a very well-organised party and by the time the other parties could even think of a strategy, the Congress had already started its campaign.
  • Had an organisational network down to the local level.

Congress as social and ideological coalition

Congress evolved from its origins in 1885 as a pressure group for the newly educated, professional and commercial classes to a mass movement.

Congress began as a party dominated by the English speaking, upper caste, upper middle-class and urban elite. 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 dwellers and villagers, workers and owners, middle, lower and upper classes and castes.

Its leadership also expanded beyond the upper caste and upper class professionals to agriculture based leaders with a rural orientation.

Broadly, it represented India’s diversity in terms of classes and castes, religions and languages and various interests.

Many of these groups merged their identity within the Congress. Very often they did not and continued to exist within the Congress as groups and individuals holding different beliefs. In this sense the Congress was an ideological coalition as well.

It accommodated the revolutionary and pacifist, conservative and radical, extremist and moderate and the right, left and all shades of the centre.

Many organisations and parties with their own constitution and organisational structure were allowed to exist within the Congress

Congress Socialist Party, later separated from the Congress and became opposition parties.

It was a ‘platform’ for numerous groups, interests and even political parties to take part in the national movement.

Despite differences regarding the methods, specific programmes and policies the party managed to contain if not resolve differences and build a consensus.

Tolerance and management of factions

Coalition-like character of the Congress gave it an unusual strength. A coalition accommodates all those who join it. It has to avoid any extreme position and strike a balance on almost all issues. Compromise and inclusiveness are the hallmarks of a coalition.

This put the opposition in a difficulty. Anything that the opposition wanted to say, would also find a place in the programme and ideology of the Congress.

In a party that has the nature of a coalition, there is a greater tolerance of internal differences and 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.

Even if a group was not happy with the position of the party or with its share of power, it would. They remain inside the party and fight the other groups rather than leaving the party and becoming an ‘opposition’. These groups inside the party are called factions.

The coalitional nature of the Congress party tolerated and in fact encouraged various factions. Some of these factions were based on ideological considerations but very often these factions were rooted in personal ambitions and rivalries

Internal factionalism became a strength. Since there was room within the party for various factions to fight with each other, it meant that leaders representing different interests and ideologies remained within the Congress rather than go out and form a new party.

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 influenced policy and decision making from the “margins”. They were far removed from the actual exercise of authority. They were not alternatives to the ruling party; instead they constantly pressurised and criticised, censured and influenced the Congress.

Political competition therefore took place within the Congress. In the first decade of electoral competition the Congress acted both as the ruling party as well as the opposition. That is why this period of Indian politics has been described as the ‘Congress system’.

Emergence of opposition parties

The roots of almost all the non-Congress parties of today can be traced to one or the other of the opposition parties of the 1950s.

All these opposition parties succeeded in gaining only a token representation in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies during this period.

  • Their presence played a crucial role in maintaining the democratic character of the system.
  • These parties offered a sustained and often principled criticism of the policies and practices of the Congress party.
  • Kept the ruling party under check and often changed the balance of power within the Congress.
  • These parties prevented the resentment with the system from turning anti-democratic.
  • Groomed the leaders who were to play a crucial role in the shaping of our country.

In the early years there was a lot of mutual respect between the leaders of the Congress and those of the opposition.

The interim government that ruled the country after the declaration of Independence and the first general election included opposition leaders like Dr. Ambedkar and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in the cabinet.

Jawaharlal Nehru often referred to his fondness for the Socialist Party and invited socialist leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan to join his government.

This kind of personal relationship with and respect for political adversaries declined after the party competition grew more intense. This first phase of democratic politics in our country was quite unique.

Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.