Bihar: Spectacular victory for Indira in 1971 Lok Sabha election

‘Garibi Hatao’  slogan helped Indira Gandhi in 1971 election

                                           NK SINGH

Young Indian, 1 April 1971

In theory, there were two main fronts in the mid-term election for the fifth Lok Sabha from Bihar — the Congress led front that included the CPI and the PSP and the four-party alliance of the Congress (O), the Jana Sangh, the SSP and the Swatantra.

But in practice, no front really existed.

Both the rival fronts had failed to work adjustments on any significant scale or depth and avoid contest among the front parties.

421 candidates fought for the 53 Lok Sabha seats from Bihar.

The Congress contested the largest number of seats — 47, while the CPI and the PSP fielded candidates in 17 and 12 constituencies respectively.

The SSP contested 28 seats, the Jana Sangh 28, the Congress (0), 24, the BKD 13 and the Swatantra 3.

The CPM – the largest opposition group in the fifth Lok Sabha — is a small force in Bihar and it fielded only four candidates.

Rest of the nominations were by the newly formed Socialist Party (the Rebel PSP), the Hindustani Shoshit Dal, the Bagun Sumbrai faction of Jharkhand, the Horo faction of Jharkhand, the Janta Party, the Proutist Block of India, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Forward Block and the Muslim League, besides Independents.

At the time of dissolution of the Fourth Lok Sabha, the party position in respect of Bihar was: Congress 25, Congress (0) 8, CPI 5, SSP 5, Janta Party 2, Jharkhand 2, Shoshit Dal 1, PSP 1, Jana Sangh 1, BKD 1, Proutist Block 1, Independent 1.

In 1967, there were in all 315 candidates, including 104 Independents for the 53 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. The party-wise break-up of the contested and annexed seats and the percentage of votes polled was as shown in the table:

1967 Lok Sabha Election (Bihar)

Party Contested Won Votes polled
Congress 53 34 35.12 %
SSP 17 7 17.62 %
Jana Sangh 48 1 11.14 %
PSP 32 1 9.92%
CPI 17 5 9.37
Swatantra 25 0 3.47 %
CPM 2 0 0.30 %
Others 111 5 13.06 %

But the 1971 mid-term poll results marked a great change. The position as it has now emerged is as shown in the next table.

1971 ELECTION (BIHAR)

Party Contested Won Votes polled
Congress (R) 47 39 33.75 %
Jana Sangh 28 2 12.6 %
Congress (O) 24 3 11.57 %
CPI 17 5 9.98 %
SSP 28 2 9.52 %
PSP 12 0 0.96 %
Janata 4 0 0.96 %
BKD 13 0 0.95 %
Jharkhand 13 1 0.81
CPM 4 0 0.81 %
Other 231 1 18.58

In terms of popular votes and representation in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha, the undivided Congress had been on the decline since 1957.

In the election held that year the party secured 44.7 per cent of the votes for the Lok Sabha seats. It dropped marginally to 43.89 in 1962, and then slid down to 35.12 in 1967.

Its strength in the Assembly proportionally declined from 210 in 1957 to 184 in 1962, 128 in 1967 to 118 in 1969.

The steady erosion was also evident in the strength of the undivided party’s Lok Sabha contingents from Bihar: 41 in 1957, 39 in 1962 and 34 in 1967.

However, it was certain that the Congress after the split will take a larger share of the State’s seats than any other political party and could improve its position by a few more seats in 1971 elections. It was expected to do better than the undivided party in an election de-linked from that for the Assembly.

Despite the heavy losses suffered in the Assembly election, the undivided party was able to put up a comparatively better showing in the case of Parliamentary seats in 1967. It had obtained 128 Assembly seats and 34 Lok Sabha seats.

In Bihar a Parliamentary constituency covers six Assembly constituencies and on the basis of its Assembly performance the Congress should have at the most 22 seats in the Lok Sabha.

But owing to what can be said the personal appeal of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who has become a symbol of hope for the “have-nots”, the Congress scored a spectacular victory in the mid-term poll in Bihar bagging 39 of the 48 seats it contested. The party which had 25 seats in the dissolved House, retained 23 and bagged 16 new seats.

An interesting feature of the Congress victory is that the Party smashed the 20 year old electoral supremacy of the late Raja Ramgarh’s Janata Party in Hazaribagh district, wresting from it the prestige seats of Chatra and Hazaribagh.

For the first time the members of the Ramgarh Raj family suffered defeat at the hands of the Congress. The Janata Party was completely routed.

Almost all the top Congress leaders — Jagjiwan Ram, Binodanand Jha, Baliram Bhagat, Bhagwat Jha Azad, Siddheshwar Prasad, Dwarika Nath Tewari, A.P. Sharma and Nawal Kishore Sinha — defeated their rivals by big margins.

But the erstwhile colleagues of these leaders, now in the Congress (0) suffered a debacle.

Barring S. N. Mishra, its leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and the State stalwart S. N. Sinha, all of its leaders, who contested from the different constituencies of Bihar, were knocked out.

The most significant part of the story is that all of them lost to the Congress candidates.

While Ram Subhag Singh, leader of the opposition in the fourth Lok Sabha, was defeated in Buxar by BPCC President A.P. Sharma by a margin of 30,000 votes, Mrs Tarakeshwari Sinha lost her Barh seat which she had held since 1952.

The former Chief Minister and President of the BPCC(O), K. B. Sahay, was humiliated in Giridih by a ruling Congress labour leader, Chapalendu Bhattacharya, though the other partners of the four-party alliance had left the field clear for Sahay and the CPI had fielded its sitting MLA which resulted in the division of anti-alliance votes.

The Vice-President of the BPCC (0), Mahesh Prasad Sinha, hailed once as the “coming man of Bihar” was trounced in his home constituency, Muzaffarpur, by the General Secretary of the BPCC Nawal Kishore Sinha. M.P. Sinha lost by a margin of 86,000 votes.

The Congress (0) number of seats came down to three from the previous eight — although it contested a large number of seats — 24. It could secure only 11.57 per cent of the popular vote.

The reason for the defeat of the big bosses can be traced, besides the broad popular swing towards the Congress at national level, to the strictures of the Aiyer commission which enquired in to the corruption charges against some of them. The conservative anti-egalitarian image of the party, too, has been responsible for its set-back.

The SSP the second biggest party in Bihar-was the worst sufferer. The party had done well in 1967; it took 17.62 per cent of votes and seven seats. But since the mid-term poll to the Assembly in 1969, it has been on the decline.

That year, it lost not only 16 seats but its vote was reduced from 17.62 per cent to 13.31. In 1971 poll its number of seats in the Lok Sabha has been reduced to a mere 2, while its share of popular votes has come down to 9 52 per cent.

The party took the hardest knock at Munger where its top Parliamentarian Madhu Limaye was defeated by a ruling Congress candidate.

There are many reasons behind the steady erosion of the strength of the SSP in Bihar. Its alliance with Rightist Swatantra, status-quoist Congress (0) and communal Jana Sangh had precipitated a revolt within the party itself. It was a divided house during the elections.

And as it has become clear from the verdict given by the people, the ‘Grand Alliance’ was knocked out altogether — owing to what can be said its communal, rightist and conservative image.

It is doubtful, whether the SSP would have had to suffer so much, had it not been a partner in the alliance.

As the SSP leader and Police Minister, Ramanand Tiwari, put it, his party had to pay a heavy price for aligning with the Jana Sangh and the Organisation Congress. He said that in the process it had lost support of the poor and the downtrodden backwards, the Harijans as well as of the Muslims, who, as the poll results showed, went over to the Congress.

The ambitious Jana Sangh, like the other partners of the four-party alliance, too had to face a rather rough weather in Bihar, though it had been increasing its share of popular votes over the years: 0.08 per cent in 1957, 2.37 per cent in 1962, 11.14 per cent in 1967 and 15.63 per cent in 1969.

The rise in the influence of the Jana Sangh had been more notice able in towns and the tribal areas. In the towns, the traders formed its backbone while in the tribal areas it had made non-Christian Adivasis whom it tried to cultivate as Hindus and divide the adivasis on religious lines.

In the Ranchi district, which has the largest concentration of the tribal people, the Jana Sangh was able to secure seven out of 15 Assembly Seats in the poll of 1969.

Another main source of the party’s strength was the land owning classes, who find no more comfort under the wings of the Congress. Land question, however, is not the only source of the strength of the Jana Sangh.

The party’s strength in Bihar had increased in recent years because there had been a number of communal disturbances. Bihar has been more unfortunate in this respect than other states: there have been more communal disturbances in this State during the past decade, which were also more ferocious and which took a heavier toll of life, than elsewhere in the country.

But the Jana Sangh has suffered set-back in 1971 with its popular votes coming down from 15.63 per cent (1969) to 12.6 per cent. However, despite the losses suffered by the party in respect of popular vote — as it often happens in the parliamentary politics — it has been able to improve its number of seats marginally from one (1967) to two

The Sangh had some advantages due to the emergence of the Muslim League on the poll scene, which led to a retrogressive polarisation. The League had fielded nine nominees. All of them fared badly.

Among the other parties, the CPI has been steadily building up in the State as is evident from the voting percentage: 5.2 in 1957, 6.38 in 1962, 9.35 in 1967 and 10.10 in 1969. This time, the CPI has maintained its strength of five in the dissolved House.

In a confrontation between the Congress-led combination and the four-party alliance, the smaller and regional parties have been routed. The PSP, the Proutist Block, the BKD and the Shoshit Dal, which had one nominee each in the dissolved House, were wiped altogether. So was the Janta Party, which had two members in the dissolved House and one Independent. Other parties like the CPI (M), Forward Block, the Swatantra, the Hul Jharkhand made no impression on the voters.

Young Indian 1 April 1971

 

 

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