India: Elections to largest democracy of the world

Statistics of elections in India

India the home of largest democracy in India is no small achievement. An ex Election Commissioner called it the unrecorded Wonder of World. While the following statistics can not fathom the mammoth exercise taken by Election Commission of India in conducting Elections in India. There are four tier institutions which are elected two office. At bottom is elections to Gaon Sabha or Village Committee, second is elections to Local Bodies or Municipal Committee/Corporations third is State Government in each of 29 States in India and finally the Union Federal Government which is called as Central Government. The last two elections are conduction by Election Commission of India which is an independent Constitutional Institution with guaranteed tenure in office. As state earlier the story as to  how these elections exercise is conducted is a vast subject but the result of the elections to the Central Government also reflect the statistics as to how different prominent parties fared in the 16 such elections which took place since independence.

Like England, India follows Westminster form of Parliamentary Government. The elections are conducted to elect members of Parliament to lower house called Lok Sabha (Peoples Council). The leader of the house is sworn as Prime Minister of India who with his cabinet, advises President of India, which advice is binding.

The result of the elections to the Central Government also reflect the statistics as to how different prominent parties fared in the 16 such elections which took place since independence. Following is a summary of the statistics of these elections, which is complied from various sources:

Election in 1951

The election for 1st Lok Sabha was an arduous task and it took around four months, between October 25, 1951 to February 21, 1952. The Indian National Congress was the largest political party in India at that time. Jawaharlal Nehru, the President of Indian National Congress (INC) in his election campaigning, approached about one tenth of India’s population, or 35 million people, by covering about 40,000 km while at campaign trail.

Out of 173 millions less than half i.e. about 45% of voters turned up to vote and out of these voters 47,665,875 (44.99% ) voted for INC which 364 seats out of the total seats of 489 seats. A large number of independents won 37 seats with voting percentage of about 15 % of total votes polled. The Communist Party of India won 16 seats from a meagure 3.29% of vote share. The socialist Party of India got 10.59% of votes but only 12 seats. Bhartiya Jan Sangh (later BJP) won just 3 seats with a vote share of over 3%. Akali Dal with just .99% votes had won 4 seats. The very first election exposed the glitches in First Past the Post Parliamentary Democracy System. It resulted in election of a party with barely 26% of the total number of voters. Remember this number of 26, which shall change the direction of the politics of the country in the decades to come.

[Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume I, p. 572 ISBN 0-19-924958-X]

The speaker of the first Lok Sabha was Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar. The first Lok Sabha also witnessed 677 sittings (3,784 hours), the highest recorded count of the number of sitting hours. The Lok Sabha lasted its full term from 17 April 1952 until 4 April 1957.

Election in 1957

The election for second Lok Sabha was held from 24 February to 14 March 1957 in which INC again turned out to be a winner. The electoral participation rose from 45% to 55.43%. Total number of seats were also increased from 489 to 494. Of these INC won 371 seats with 47.78% of votes. Communist Party won 27 seats with 8.92% of votes. Praja Socialist Party won 19 seats with 10.41% of votes. Bhartiya Jan Sangh (later BJP) won 4 seats from 5.97% of votes. Yet again 41 independents won from 19.14% of votes.

Election of 1962

The general election to form 3rd Lok Sabha was held between 19 to 25 February, 1962. The electoral participation remained almost static with 55.42% of voters participated. INC won with 361 seats from 44.72% of votes. It was a loss of 10 seats for the INC. Communists Party won 29 seats from 9.94% of votes. Praja Socialist Party won 12 seats from 6.89% of votes, thus a loss of 7 seats and 5% of votes approx. Bhartiya Jan Sangh (later BJP) won 14 seats with 6.44% of votes. Thus it gained half percent of votes which converted into 10 more seats. Swatantra Party emerged as third largest party with 18 seats from 7.89% of votes.

C. Raj Gopalachari, popularly called Rajaji was the President of Swatantra Party. Rajaji was first Indian Governor General of Republic of India and was also the last as India became a republic in 1950. Rajaji was part of Nehru’s cabinet but resigned in 1954 and in 1957 parted ways with Congress to form Swatantra Party. Rajaji had differences with the views of Nehru that the Hindu Mahasabha ws greater threat than Communists and did not approve Nehru’s closeness with Soviet.

Elections of 1967

The general election to form the 4th Lok Sabha of India was held from 17 to 21 February, 1967. The 27 Indian states and union territories were represented by 520 single-member constituencies (an increase of 26 seats). The electoral participation rose to 61.04% up by about five percentage points. INC under the leadership of Indira Gandhi daughter of late Jawaharlal Nahru barely managed to comfortably win the elections with 283 seats out of 520 seats. INC got about 40.78% of votes out of total votes cast. A loss of 3.94% of votes cost it 78 seats.

Rajaji’s Swatantra Party emerged as largest Party with 44 seats and 8.67% of votes. A swing of less than a percent resulted in 26 extra seats. Bhartiya Jan Sangh won 35 seats with 9.31% of votes. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, rose as a regional power in Tamil Nadu and won 25 seats with just 3.79% of votes. Communist were divided as CPI and CPI(Marxists) respectively and won 23 & 19 seats respectively with vote share of 5.11 and 4.28 % respectively. Two Swatantra Parties with prefix of Praja and Samyukt won 13and 23 seats respectively with 3.06 and 4.92% of vote share.


Election of 1971

Much before the elections of 1971, the Indian National Congress Party saw a split into INC(R) and INC(O) respectively. O stood of Organisation and R stood for Requisitionist.

[Sanghvi, Vijay (2006). The Congress, Indira to Sonia Gandh. New Delhi: Kalpaz Publications. p. 77. ISBN 81-7835-340-7.]

The INC(O) had 33 members of Lok Sabha and INC(R) had 259 members. The no confidence motion against the government of Indira was defeated with the help of Communists. When the election process started, the symbol of Congress Party symbol of a pair of bullocks carrying a yoke was retained by the INC(O) and the faction of INC(R) was given symbol a new symbol of a cow with suckling calf, It was important development as illiterate would place stamp on the picture without reading the name.

This was beginning of new era in elections of India. For the first time parties fought election by forming alliances. It was beginning of coalition era. Rather it was restart of coalitions as the first one died in 1919 when Nehru after winning election with Muslim League refused to give any cabinet birth to the later as Congress had won a comfortable majority.

Election to 5th Lok Sabha was for a total of 518 seats for which the voter turnout remained at 55.27%. as was in the past. Their were for blocks of Coalition. First was INC(R) and Second was INC(O) with Bhartiya Jan Sangh, Swatantra Party, Samyukt and Praja Socialist Parties respectively. The third block was Communists and those following Marx. Fourth block was of Independent members. The final result after election was as under:



Seats won


Popular Votes %

Indian National Congress (R)
Seats: 350
Seat Change: +93
Popular Vote %: 43.68

Indian National Congress (R)

352 +93 43.68

National Democratic Front (Alliance)
Seats: 51
Seat Change: -65
Popular Vote %: 24.34

Indian National Congress (Organisation)

16 −17 10.43

Bharatiya Jana Sangh

22 -22 7.37

Swatantra Party

8 -15 3.07

Samyukta Socialist Party

3 -10 2.43

Praja Socialist Party

2 -17 1.04

Left Parties
Seats: 48
Popular Vote %: 9.86

Communist Party of India (Marxist)

25 -6 5.13

Communist Party of India

23 4.73

Seats: 66
Popular Vote %: 22.14


67 -12 22.16


This was the beginning of the end of Old Congress Party. INC was from now on recognised as INC(I) with I standing for Indira.

Within 3 years of rule the Indira Gandhi suffered an electoral set back. Her election was held to be marred by electoral mal practice and she was disqualified. She had six months for re-election. She appealed in Supreme Court and the verdict was stayed with the condition that she would not vote in the Parliament but could continue as Prime Minister, if she so chooses. It infuriated the narcissist Indira and she invoked emergent powers from the Constitution on the ground of internal disturbance. Fundamental rights were suspended. Habeas Corpus was also suspended later with pliant judiciary at Supreme Court. Opposition leaders were arrested overnight and stashed in Jails under draconian laws. People were arrested and tortured in jails over trivial matters. Press censorship was imposed. The young Democracy which was in infancy, died. However on the misleading reports of intelligence that she had in fact, become even more popular after emergency, Indira decided to hold fresh elections in 1977. The democracy crawled back again.

Election of 1977

The election for sixth Lok Sabha were held in 1977. The opposition hastily formed together a single party to oppose Indira. It was called Janata Party and it won 298 seats out of 542. Morarji Desai was chosen as the leader of the alliance in the newly formed parliament and thus became India’s first non-Congress Prime Minister on 24 March. The Congress lost 197 seats. Indira lost her seat in North India but won from Medak, Karnataka, where the effect of emergency was not so visible. Her son and progeny Sanjay too lost.

The most dramatic aspect of this election was that 60.49% of the total electorate participated and voted. A sharp rise of 5% from earlier 55%. As may be seen the voting percentage has generally inverse relationship with win of Congress Party except in 1984. The final tally of two groups was as under:



Seats won


Popular votes %

Janata Alliance
Seats: 345
Seat Change: +233
Popular vote %: 51.89

Janata Party

298 +245 43.17

Communist Party of India (Marxist)

22 -3 4.30

Shiromani Akali Dal

9 +8 1.26

Peasants and Workers Party of India

5 0.55

Revolutionary Socialist Party

3 +2 n/a

All India Forward Bloc

3 +2 0.34

Republican Party of India (Khobragade)

2 +1 0.51

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

1 -22 1.76



Congress Alliance
Seats: 189
Seat Change: -217
Popular Vote %: 40.98

Indian National Congress (Indira)

153 −197 34.52

Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

19 2.9

Communist Party of India

7 -16 2.82

Jammu & Kashmir National Conference

2 0.26

Indian Union Muslim League

2 -2 0.3

Kerala Congress

2 -1 0.18

Revolutionary Socialist Party (breakaway)

1 -1



Seats: 19




Another interesting highlight of this election was the Communists allied with Janta Party but the Marxist allied with Congress Party i.e. INC(I). Another development was the Tamil Nadu, the southern state voted completely differently and elected INC(I) ally DMK. Above all, for the first time in the History of India, an alliance was voted into office with actual majority of over 51% of votes polled.

Elections of 1980

Janta Party which was hugely successful in 1977 was split with a new Party called Janta Dal (Secular) founded by Shri Raj Narain. Choudhry Charan Sing assumed its leadership and with the support of INC(I) claimed stake to the office of Prime Minister. He was sworn in but could not see the Parliament for a day as INC(I) withdrew support even before the incumbant Prime Minister could prove his majority on the floor of house. He resigned and recommended early elections. Therefore the INC(I) returned to power with thumping majority winning 353 seats in Parliament out of 542 with 42.69% of the votes polled for 7th Lok Sabha.

The Janata Party, or what remained of the alliance, won only 31 seats insite of garnering 18.97% of votes, whereas Charan Singh’s Janata Party (Secular) won 41 seats with 9.39% of votes.

The interesting take from this election was the fall of in number of voters. Out of 356,205,329 voters only 202,752,893 turned up to vote and thus voting percentage fell to 56.92%. It was down by 5% from the voter turn out in 1977 elections. As we shall see the voting percentage is the real game changer in the elections in India.


Elections of 1984

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards on 29th November 1984. Her elder son Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister and he called in an earlier elections which took place on 24, 27 and 28 December 1984 to elect 8th Lok Sabha.

The elections took place intially for 508 seats with elections for Assam and Punjab deferred for next year due to law and order problems.

The sympathy wave turned out to be tsunami in favour of INC(I) which won 404 seats with 49.10% percentage of total votes polled. The largest party in opposition for the first time was a regional party from Andhra Pradesh called Telgu Desam with 30 seats on a mere 4.31% of votes. The second largest in terms of votes was BJP which won 2 seats with a vote share 7.74%. The total number of voters was 379,540,608 out of which 241,246,887 voters exercised their right with a turn out of 63.56%. This was the highest voter turn out in the history of independent India till 1984.

For the record the INC(I) won 10 more seats from Assam and Punjab elections later on a rather lack lustre voter count of 32% of total votes cast in those states.



Elections of 1989

Elections for the 9th Lok Sabha took place on 22 and 26 November 1989. V.P.Singh who was the Finance Minister in previous Government of Rajiv Gandhi had resigned and joined Janta Dal with few other colleagues over mounting charges of corruption and inefficiency on the Rajiv Gandhi Government.

V. P. Singh had formed a National Front which had the entire spectrum of parties including regional parties such as the Telugu Desam Party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and the Asom Gana Parishad, forming the National Front with N.T.Rama Rao as President and V. P. Singh as convenor with additional outside support from the Bharatiya Janata Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist) led Left front.

After the election, the INC(I) lost more than half its seats and could save only 197 seats with a voter share of 39.53% of total votes. Janta Dal came second with 143 seats with a voter share of 17.79% and BJP was third with 85 seats with a vote share of 11.36%. The Left with communists and marxist together won 45 seats with a combined vote share 9.12%. The regional parties did not perform well with only AIADMK of Tamil Nadu reaching double digit with 11 seats. Others could muster just 1-3 seats.

The voter turn out in this election was moderately less at 61.95% which was about 1.5% less than the previous Governments. It was the beginning of coalition era which was to continue for three decades till 2014.

National Front was anything but national. It had Right wing BJP with 85 MPs and Left with 45 MPs. With a mere 143 seats, Janta Party was dependent on both. V.P. Singh could not manage well and lost confidence vote on 7th November 1990. Janta Party broke into two with Chandra Shekhar staked the claim to the office with 64 MPs by forming a new Samajwadi Janta Party, with the support of INC. Chandra Shekhar resigned on 6 March 1991 after withdrawal of support by INC and it resulted in fresh elections.

Elections of 1991

The elections for 10th Lok Sabha were to be held in May 1991 but after the first phase of elections on 20 May, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber of LTTE in Sriperembudur, Tamil Nadu, hence the elections dates were postponed to 12th and 15th June 1991. June is the harshest month of summer which also affected the voter turn out and only 55.71% of voter turn out.

The INC or the Congress won 244 seats with a 35.66% of votes. BJP emerged as second largest party with 120 seats and 20.04% of vote share. Janata Dal won 69 seats with 11.77% of votes. The Communists and Marxists improved to 49 seats with 8.62% of votes.

For the first time and only time, a minority Government remained in office for 5 years, introduced major economic reforms opening economy and unleashing the potential of the country. But if it was partly due to the dynamism of P.V.Narsimha Rao the polyglot prime minister it was partly due to generosity of Leader of Opposition Atal Bihari Vajpayee would did not cause unnecessary trouble and supported the reforms. It was also due to personal chemistry of both the leaders as well who shared a good personal relationship.

Elections of 1996

Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao lacked personal charisma and his government was marred by ‘Cash for Vote’ scam on the allegation that cash was paid to garner support from smaller parties. In the election for 11th Lok Sabha held on 27th April, 2nd May and 7th May 1996, the vote share of Congress was reduced to 28.80% with a mere 140 seats. BJP gained the most with 161 seats with a mere 0.18% gain in vote share which now stood at 20.29%. The National Front with 14.33% of votes had 79 seats. Communists, Marxists etc. which formed left front had 52 seats with about over 15% of vote hare.

It was the worst kind of hung parliament. At least a dozen local parties won 1 seat or more. A dozen regional parties won 5 or more seats. The next two years saw three Prime Ministers and the general elections to be called again in 1998. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the only Prime Minister in the history with shortest stint of 13 days in office.

Election of 1998

The elections for 12th Lok Sabha were held on 16th, 22nd and 27th February 1998. The total voter turn out was 61.97%.

This election saw substantial gains for BJP which won 182 seats with vote share of 25.59%. The Congress won 141 seats with a vote share of 25.82% which was almost equals to BJP. Communist Party Marxist won 32 seats and Communist won 12 seats.

The BJP formed a National Democratic Alliance with smaller parties like AIADMK, Samta Party, Akali Dal, Trinamool Party, Bijoo Janta Dal etc. and for the first time formed a Government under leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee but he lost no confidence motion by just 1 vote on 17 April 1999. His government lasted for 13 months. NDA had 254 seats with 46.61% of vote share.

The nation also faced Kargil War during this period.

Elections of 1999

The elections for 13th Lok Sabha were long drawn and were conducted in five phases. It commenced on 5th September to continue on 11th, 18th and 25th September to culminate on 5th October 1999. The vote share was marginally lower at 59.99% at this election.

BJP retained its position by winning 182 seats with a vote share of 23.75% marginally lesser than before. NDA with BJP and regional allies together won 270 seats with vote share 37.06%. With the additional support of Telgu Desam Party which had won 12 seats, NDA formed the government again under leadership of A.B.Vajpayee.

The vote share of Congress Party too increased marginally by 2.48% but with 28.30% of vote share it lost 27 seats and won only 114 seats in the parliament. The Communist Part was the biggest loser by winning just 4 seats but the Marxist increased its tally to 33 up by one seat.

Apart from major boost to infrastructure sector like roads, the Vajpayee ushered India into hitherto unchartered area of missiles, cruise missiles, space technology, GPS, Blue Sea Navy etc., which in the decades to come would raise the status of India as a major power to reckon with. Interestingly none of this is ever reported by media. More about this at appropriate place.


Election of 2004

The elections for 14th Lok Sabha were held on 20th,, 26th April 5th and 10thMay 2004. The country had a total of 67,487,930 votes out which 58.07% votes i.e. 389,948,330 votes were polled.

The incumbant Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee campaigned for the BJP but it was revealed much later that he was not keeping good health and therefore could not give it the best of himself. This proved to be last election in the political career of Vajpayee.

Congress Party with 26.53% of polled votes won 145 seats. The incumbant BJP won only 138 seats with 22.16% of polled vates. But the regional allies of BJP fared badly. The total seats won by NDA stood at 181 and that by Congress led United Progressive Alliance won 218 seats and with the support of Communist’s 59 seats, it staked the claim to form the Government.

Manmohan Singh a career diplomat and economist by profession, swore in as Prime Minister. For the first time India had a Prime Minister who would spend ten years in office without seeking election to Lok Sabha and would be elected from Rajya Sabha.


Elections of 2009

The general elections to the 15th Lok Sabha took place in five phases between 16 April 2009 and 13 May 2009. The total electors in this election were 716,985,101 out of which 63.58% or 417,159,281 electors chose to exercise their right to vote. It was 5% more than the previous elections of 2004.

Anti incumbency is the term used in politics of India to define a Government which could not perform or is perceived as non performing. Actually people prefer to vote for the Government if it can justify that it tried enough. Manmohan Singh successfully avoided the anti incumbancy by transferring the blame to left parties supporting his government by claiming that they interfered in reforms. The performance of opposing BJP was lack lustre to say the least. While BJP retained the State Governments, it could not win back Parliament.

BJP won 116 seats with 18.80% of votes polled. Communists were reduced to 20 seats from high of 59 in previous elections. Congress emerged as winner with 206 seats from 28.55% of vote share. Manmohan Singh had won.


The second tenure of Manmohan Government was marred by scams after scams. There was such gross corruption that the skaletons continue to fall out of cupboard years after he had demitted office. Currency, the rupee had steepest fall in its history with about 45%. Value of rupee fell from 37 against a dollar to 69. The economist failed the economy. Tuned out he was merely a titular Prime Minister of a government in which decisions were being taken by the Party Chief Sonia Gandhi. Manmohan was later called Accidental Prime Minister.

[Source: ISBN 978-0670086740, the Accidental Prime Minister by Sanjay Baru ]

Election of 2014

The election of 1984 saw the euphoria, media management, commercial advertisement campaign like never before. 2014 election was a kind of deja vu with the difference of technology. Massive Video conferencing, campaigns of social media, jet travel like never before. The Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP, Narendera Modi was visible everywhere. Three public addresses at different far off locations on one single day was unheard off in India. But it paid off. People, like always, were way tired off corruption and crony capitalism of congress. More so the unapologetic instance of its leaders.

The election of 2014 held to elect 16th Lok Sabha was held in nine phases from 12 April to 12 May 2014. Out of 834,082,814 eligible electors 547,800,004 voted with voting percentage of 60.70%.

BJP, the winner got 282 seats with 31.34% votes polled. It’s allies also got BSP was most unlucky with 4.19% of votes polled it could not win a single seat. Worst performance of BSP in decades.NCP got 6 seats with 1.58% of votes polled. Rest of the seats went to regional parties.

[Source: ]



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