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Chapter 9 Recent Development in Indian Politics Class 12 Political Science II CBSE NCERT Notes
We will study the decade of 1990s and various activities such as Mandalisation, Ramjanambhoomi movement in this chapter.
Context of the 1990s
First the most crucial development of this period was the defeat of the Congress party in the elections held in 1989.
Second development was the rise of the ‘Mandal issue’ in national politics. This followed the decision by the new National Front government in 1990, to implement the recommendation of the Mandal Commission that jobs in central government should be reserved for the Other Backward Classes. This led to violent ‘antiMandal’ protests in different parts of the country. This dispute between the supporters and opponents of OBC reservations was known as the ‘Mandal issue’.
Third, the initiation of the structural adjustment programme or the new economic reforms. Started by Rajiv Gandhi, these changes first became very visible in 1991. These policies have been widely criticised by various movements and organisations.
Fourth, a number of events culminated in the demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya (known as Babri Masjid) in December 1992. These developments are associated with the rise of the BJP and the politics of ‘Hindutva’
Finally, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 led to a change in leadership of the Congress party. He was assassinated by a Sri Lankan Tamil linked to the LTTE. In the elections of 1991, Congress emerged as the single largest party. Following Rajiv Gandhi’s death, the party chose Narsimha Rao as the Prime Minister.
Era of Coalitions
Elections in 1989 led to the defeat of the Congress party but did not result in a majority for any other party.
The National Front (which itself was an alliance of Janata Dal and some other regional parties) received support from two diametrically opposite political groups: the BJP and the Left Front. On this basis, the National Front formed a coalition government, but the BJP and the Left Front did not join in this government.
Decline of Congress
The defeat of the Congress party marked the end of Congress dominance over the Indian party system.
In the late sixties, the Congress party’s dominance was challenged, but it was restored under the leadership of Indira Gandhi.
In the nineties, the Congress party faced yet another challenge to its predominant position in politics. The emergence of several parties after 1989 led to the beginning of a multi-party system in India.
This meant that no single party secured a clear majority of seats in any Lok Sabha election held since 1989 till 2014.
The nineties also saw the emergence of powerful parties and movements that represented the Dalit and backward castes (Other Backward Classes or OBCs). These parties played an important role in the United Front government that came to power in 1996.
In 1989, both the Left and the BJP supported the National Front Government because they wanted to keep the Congress out of power.
In 1996, the Left continued to support the non-Congress government but this time the Congress, supported it, as both the Congress and the Left wanted to keep the BJP out of power.
The BJP consolidated its position in the 1991 and 1996 elections, emerging as the largest party in 1996 and invited to form the government. But most other parties were opposed to its policies and therefore, the BJP government could not secure a majority in the Lok Sabha.
The BJP finally came to power by leading a coalition government from May 1998 to June 1999 and was re-elected in October 1999.
Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister during both these NDA governments, and his government formed in 1999 completed its full term.
With the elections of 1989, a long phase of coalition politics began in India. Since then, there have been eleven governments at the Centre, all of which have either been coalition governments or minority governments supported by other parties.
In earlier times, it was the Congress party itself that was a ‘coalition’ of different interests and different social strata and groups.
The rise of many regional parties in the period after 1977 weakened the Congress party but did not enable any single party to replace it.
The trend of coalition politics changed in 2014.
Political Rise of Other Backward Class
Other Backward Classes (OBC) refers to communities other than SC and ST who suffer from educational and social backwardness. They are also known as ‘backward castes’.
The support for the Congress among many sections of the ‘backward castes’ had declined. This created a space for non-Congress parties that drew more support from these communities.
The rise of these parties first found political expression at the national level in the form of the Janata Party government in 1977.
Many of the constituents of the Janata Party, like the Bharatiya Kranti Dal and the Samyukta Socialist Party, had a powerful rural base among some sections of the OBC.
In the 1980s, the Janata Dal brought together a similar combination of political groups with strong support among the OBCs.
The decision of the National Front government to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission further helped in shaping the politics of ‘Other Backward Classes’.
This period saw the emergence of many parties that sought better opportunities for OBCs in education and employment and raised the question of the share of power enjoyed by the OBCs.
These parties claimed that since OBCs constituted a large segment of Indian society, it was only democratic that they should get adequate representation in administration and have their due share of political power.
The 1980s also saw the rise of political organisation of the Dalits. In 1978 the Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) was formed.
The subsequent Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti and later the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) emerged under the leadership of Kanshi Ram. The BSP began as a small party supported largely by Dalit voters in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, but in 1989 and 1991 elections, it achieved a breakthrough in Uttar Pradesh.
The BSP is based on pragmatic politics, deriving confidence from the fact that the Bahujans constitute the majority of the population and are a formidable political force on the strength of their numbers.
In many parts of India, Dalit politics and OBC politics have developed independently and often in competition with each other.
Communalism, Secularism and Democracy
The period saw the emergence of politics based on religious identity, leading to a debate about secularism and democracy.
The Bharatiya Jana Sangh merged into the Janata Party after the Emergency.
After the fall of the Janata Party and its break-up, supporters of erstwhile Jana Sangh formed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980.
After 1986, BJP began to emphasise the Hindu nationalist element in its ideology. The BJP pursued the politics of ‘Hindutva’ and adopted the strategy of mobilising the Hindus.
Hindutva literally means ‘Hinduness’ and was defined by its originator, V. D. Savarkar, as the basis of Indian (in his language also Hindu) nationhood. It basically meant that to be members of the Indian nation, everyone must not only accept India as their ‘fatherland’ (pitrubhu) but also as their holy land (punyabhu).
Believers of ‘Hindutva’ argue that a strong nation can be built only on the basis of a strong and united national culture.
Two developments around 1986 became central to the politics of BJP as a ‘Hindutva’ party:
- The first was the Shah Bano case in 1985. In this case a 62-year old divorced Muslim woman, had filed a case for maintenance from her former husband. The Supreme Court ruled in her favour. On the demand of some Muslim leaders, the government passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 that nullified the Supreme Court’s judgment.
- The second development was the order by the Faizabad district court in February 1986. The court ordered that the Babri Masjid premises be unlocked so that Hindus could offer prayers at the site which they considered as a temple.
The Babri Masjid was a 16th century mosque in Ayodhya and was built by Mir Baqi – Mughal emperor Babur’s General. Some Hindus believe that it was built after demolishing a temple for Lord Rama in what is believed to be his birthplace.
In the late 1940s the mosque was locked up as the matter was with the court.
The BJP made this issue its major electoral and political plank. Along with many other organisations like the RSS and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), it convened a series of symbolic and mobilisational programmes.
The BJP, in order to generate public support, took out a massive march called the Rathyatra from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya in UP.
Demolition and after
In December 1992, organisations supporting the construction of the temple arranged a Karseva for building the Ram temple.
Thousands of people from across the country gathered in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 and destroyed the mosque. This news led to clashes between Hindus and Muslims in many parts of the country.
The violence in Mumbai erupted again in January 1993 and continued for over two weeks.
The State government, with the BJP as the ruling party, was dismissed by the Centre. Along with that, other States where the BJP was in power, were also put under President’s rule.
The central government appointed a commission to investigate into the circumstances leading to the demolition of the mosque.
During this time, there has also been a debate about using religious sentiments for electoral purposes.
In February-March 2002, large-scale violence took place in Gujarat.
A bogey of a train that was returning from Ayodhya and was full of Karsevaks was set on fire. Fifty seven people died in that fire.
Suspecting the hand of the Muslims in setting fire to the bogey, large-scale violence against Muslims began in many parts of Gujarat from the next day. This violence continued for almost a whole month. Nearly 1100 persons, mostly Muslims, were killed in this violence.
Gujarat riots show that the governmental machinery also becomes susceptible to sectarian passions.
Emergence of New Consensus
The period after 1989 is seen sometimes as the period of decline of Congress and rise of BJP.
Lok Sabha Elections 2004
In the elections of 2004, the Congress party too entered into coalitions in a big way. The NDA was defeated and a new coalition government led by the Congress, known as the United Progressive Alliance came to power.
However, in the 2004 elections, there was a negligible difference between the votes polled by the Congress and its allies and the BJP and its allies.
The political processes that are unfolding around us after the 1990s show the emergence of broadly four groups of parties – parties that are in coalition with the Congress; parties that are in alliance with the BJP; Left Front parties; and other parties who are not part of any of these three.
On many crucial issues, a broad agreement has emerged among most parties.
First, agreement on new economic policies – while many groups are opposed to the new economic policies, most political parties are in support of the new economic policies.
Second, acceptance of the political and social claims of the backward castes – political parties have recognised that the social and political claims of the backward castes need to be accepted.
Third, acceptance of the role of State level parties in governance of the country – the distinction between State level and national level parties is fast becoming less important.
Fourth, emphasis on pragmatic considerations rather than ideological positions and political alliances without ideological agreement – coalition politics has shifted the focus of political parties from ideological differences to power sharing arrangements.
All these are momentous changes and are going to shape politics in the near future.
Issues like poverty, displacement, minimum wages, livelihood and social security are being put on the political agenda by peoples’ movements, reminding the state of its responsibility.
Similarly, issues of justice and democracy are being voiced by the people in terms of class, caste, gender and regions.