ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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General Elections, 1996 Karnataka-Decline and Fall of the Congress Machine

General Elections, 1996: Karnataka Decline and Fall of the Congress Machine Harold A Gould The Janata Dal's success in replacing the Congress machine in Karnataka can be attributed in part to the ability of the party's leadership to curb their factional proclivities sufficiently to enable them to work together and extend the scope of the grass roots political apparatus. Partly it can be attributed to the party leadership's ability to accurately perceive the class alignments taking place in the state and elsewhere in response to rapid economic change and the accompanying media revolution, and to factor a combination of 'caste thesis' and 'class thesis' into their political calculations. [First of series of studies of the 11th General Elections.] THROUGHOUT the Nehru era and most of Indira Gandhi's prime ministership, from 1952 until 1983, Karnataka was one of the Congress Party's most steadfast bastions of power. During this 21-year period, regardless of what was happening elsewhere in the country, the Congress lost neither a parliamentary nor a provincial assembly ejection there. Commencing with the 1983 Vidhan Sabha election, however, cracks began to appear in the party machine's armour. The Congress for the first time lost control of the provincial government when a coalition led by the Janata Party gained a slim majority and installed Ramkrishna Hcgde as Karnataka's first non-Congress chief minister. Soon-to-be-assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi's heavy-handed tactics of fomenting intra-party conflict in order to undermine grass roots power systems that purportedly impeded the central control over provincial governments, finally came home to roost in Karnataka as it already had in several other Indian provinces. The Janata Party followed up their success with an even more decisive victory in 1985 when they won enough seats (137) to form a majority in their own right. This despite the sympathy wave following his mother's assassination (on October 31, 1984) which a year earlier had propelled Rajiv Gandhi to power at the centre and enabled Congress to win the lion's share of Karnataka's parliamentary seats 24 of 28 in the eighth general election.

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