1977 Indian general election

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1977 Indian general election

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542 of the 544 seats in the Lok Sabha
272 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  Morarji Desai portrait.jpg Face detail, Premier Indira Gandhi (Congrespartij), Bestanddeelnr 929-0811 (cropped).jpg
Leader Morarji Desai Indira Gandhi
Party JP INC
Leader's seat Surat Rae Bareli
Seats won 295 154
Seat change Increase 260 Decrease 198
Popular vote 78,062,828 65,211,589
Percentage 41.32% 34.52%
Swing Increase 25.57pp Decrease 9.16pp

Prime Minister before election

Indira Gandhi

Prime Minister after election

Morarji Desai

General elections were held in India between 16 and 20 March 1977 to elect the members of the 6th Lok Sabha. The elections took place during the Emergency period, which expired on 21 March 1977, shortly before the final results were announced.[1]

The election resulted in a heavy defeat for the Indian National Congress (INC), with the incumbent Prime Minister and INC party leader Indira Gandhi losing her seat in Rae Bareli. The call for restoration of democracy by revoking the Emergency is considered to be a major reason for the sweeping victory for the opposition Janata Alliance,[2] whose leader Morarji Desai was sworn in as the fourth Prime Minister of India on 24 March. At 81, Desai became the oldest man to be elected Prime Minister of India.


This sixth general elections, which were conducted for 542 seats in single-member constituencies, represented 27 Indian states and union territories.[3] These 542 constituencies remained same until 2004 Indian general elections for the 14th Lok Sabha.

The Emergency declared by the Indira Gandhi led Congress government was the core issue in the 1977 elections. Civil liberties were suspended during the national emergency from 25 June 1975 to 21 March 1977 and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi assumed vast powers.

Gandhi had become extremely unpopular for her decision and paid for it during the elections. On 18 January, Gandhi called for fresh elections and released some political prisoners. Many remained in prison until she was ousted from office and a new prime minister took over.[4] On 20 January, four opposition parties, the Indian National Congress (Organisation), the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the Bharatiya Lok Dal and the Praja Socialist Party, decided to fight the elections under a single banner called the Janata alliance.[1] The alliance used the symbol allocated to Bhartiya Lok Dal as their symbol on the ballot papers.

The Janata Alliance reminded voters of the excesses and human rights violations during the Emergency, like compulsory sterilisation and imprisonment of political leaders. The Janata campaign said the elections would decide whether India would have "democracy or dictatorship."[5] The Congress looked jittery. Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Babu Jagjivan Ram quit the party in the first week of February; other notable Congress stalwarts who crossed the floor with Jagjivan Ram before the election were Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna and Nandini Satpathy.


Lok Sabha Zusammensetzung 1977.svg
Janata Party78,062,82841.32295+260
Indian National Congress65,211,58934.52154–198
Communist Party of India (Marxist)8,113,6594.2922–3
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam5,480,3782.9018New
Communist Party of India5,322,0882.827–16
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam3,323,3201.762–21
Indian National Congress (Organisation)3,252,2171.723–13
Shiromani Akali Dal2,373,3311.269+8
Peasants and Workers Party of India1,030,2320.555+5
Republican Party of India (Khobragade)956,0720.512+2
Revolutionary Socialist Party851,1640.454+1
All India Forward Bloc633,6440.343+1
Indian Union Muslim League565,0070.3020
Kerala Congress (Pillai Group)526,9370.280New
Kerala Congress491,6740.262–1
Jammu & Kashmir National Conference483,1920.262New
Muslim League (Opposition)318,9790.170New
Socialist Unity Centre of India280,9950.1500
Vishal Haryana Party192,8670.100–1
Republican Party of India155,9720.080–1
All India Jharkhand Party126,2880.0710
United Democratic Front124,6270.071New
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party118,7480.061+1
Jharkhand Party116,9610.060New
Manipur Peoples Party109,1300.0600
Shoshit Samaj Dal (Akhil Baharatiya)96,7530.050New
Revolutionary Communist Party of India45,0470.0200
Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti35,9160.020New
Hindu Mahasabha35,4190.0200
Bihar Prant Hul Jharkhand27,1160.0100
Akhil Bharatiya Ram Rajya Parishad26,1690.0100
All India Labour Party17,1910.010New
Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League12,5090.0100
All India Shiromani Baba Jivan Singh Mazabhi Dal5,8680.000New
Appointed Anglo-Indians20
Valid votes188,917,50497.25
Invalid/blank votes5,346,4112.75
Total votes194,263,915100.00
Registered voters/turnout321,174,32760.49
Source: ECI

Voter behaviour[]

The elections in India's largest state Uttar Pradesh, historically a Congress stronghold, turned against Gandhi. Dhanagare says the structural reasons included the emergence of a strong and united opposition, disunity and weariness within the Congress, an effective opposition and the failure of Gandhi in controlling the mass media, which was under censorship during the Emergency. The structural factors allowed voters to express their grievances, notably their resentment of the emergency and its authoritarian and repressive policies. One grievance often mentioned was the 'Nasbandi' (vasectomy) campaign in rural areas. The middle class also emphasised on the curbing of freedom of speech throughout the country.[6]

Meanwhile, Congress hit an all-time low in West Bengal, according to the Gangulys, because of poor discipline and factionalism among Congress activists as well as numerous defections that weakened the party. Opponents emphasised the issues of corruption within the Congress and appealed to a deep desire by the voters for fresh leadership.[7] The Congress, however, did well in southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The results were mixed in the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, although the Janata alliance won all the seats in Mumbai.

See also[]


  1. ^ a b c India Inter-Parliamentary Union
  2. ^ M.R. Masani, "India's Second Revolution," Asian Affairs (1977) 5#1 pp 19–38.
  3. ^ "General Election of India 1977, 6th Lok Sabha" (PDF). Election Commission of India. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  4. ^ From FPJ Archives: Emergency impact - Indira Gandhi loses elections, India gets first non-Gandhi PM The Free Press Journal, 25 June 2019
  5. ^ "INKredible India: The story of 1977 Lok Sabha election - All you need to know".
  6. ^ D.N. Dhanagare, "Sixth Lok Sabha Election in Uttar Pradesh – 1977: The End of the Congress Hegemony," Political Science Review (1979) 18#1 pp 28–51
  7. ^ Mira Ganguly and Bangendu Ganguly, "Lok Sabha Election, 1977: The West Bengal Scene," Political Science Review (1979) 18#3 pp 28–53

Further reading[]

  • Guha, Ramachandra. India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy (2008) pp 491–518
  • Klieman, Aaron S. "Indira's India: Democracy and Crisis Government," Political Science Quarterly (1981) 96#2 pp. 241–259 in JSTOR
  • Roy, Ramashray; Sheth, D. L. "The 1977 Lok Sabha Election Outcome: The Salience of Changing Voter Alignments Since 1969," Political Science Review (1978), Vol. 17 Issue 3/4, pp 51–63
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