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December 4, 1997


LS dissolved for fourth time

It is for the fourth time in independent India's history that the Lok Sabha has been dissolved before completing its full tenure, leading to a mid-term poll.

The eleventh Lok Sabha, which lasted barely one-and-a-half years, was dissolved by President K R Narayanan today.

The minority Inder Kumar Gujral government, the second by the United Front since the April-May 1996 general election, collapsed on November 28 when Congress president Sitaram Kesri withdrew support to it.

On three of the four occasions, a mid-term poll was necessitated after the Congress pulled the plug.

In 1979, then Congress president Indira Gandhi withdrew support to the Charan Singh-led Janata (S) government. Charan Singh had come to power, propped up by the Congress, after the fall of the Morarji Desai government. The latter walked into the prime minister's office, riding on the massive mandate received by the Janata Party (a conglomeration of various parties) in the 1977 election, as the head of the first non-Congress government at the Centre.

Differences within the Desai government, which came to power in March 1977, surfaced less than a year later, when then home minister Charan Singh wrote to Desai about charges of corruption against his son Kanti Desai.

In just eight days, from July 9 to July 17, 1979, the strength of the ruling Janata Party in the Lok Sabha was reduced from 302 to 227 following defections. Then industry minister George Fernandes resigned on July 15 in protest against Desai's insistence to continue in office despite the party being reduced to a minority. Desai quit office the same day as the revolt within the party mounted.

Charan Singh tendered his resignation as prime minister on August 20, 1979 after being in power for only 24 days and was the only prime minister who never faced the Lok Sabha.

Then President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy dissolved the sixth Lok Sabha on August 22, 1979, nearly two years and seven months before its five-year term was to end.

This was the second time that the House had been dissolved before its term ended, the first time being on December 27, 1970, when then President V V Giri dissolved the fourth Lok Sabha on then prime minister Indira Gandhi's advice. She preferred to appeal to the electorate before the statutory time limit.

The sixth, ninth and the eleventh Lok Sabhas had governments which succeeded Congress governments (headed by Indira Gandhi in 1977, Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 and P V Narasimha Rao in 1996 respectively).

Vishwanath Pratap Singh's ascendency to the prime ministership in the multi-party National Front government in 1989 was followed by a dramatic decline the following year, when he became the first prime minister to lose a vote of confidence on the floor of the Lok Sabha in November 1990.

The V P Singh government was supported by both the Left parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party from outside. The BJP withdrew its support after its president Lal Kishinchand Advani, leading a rath yatra on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue, was arrested in Samastipur, Bihar.

The immediate impact of V P Singh's fall was a split in the Janata Dal with Chandra Shekhar and Devi Lal parting ways to form the Janata Dal (S).

With barely 50-odd MPs on his flank, Chandra Shekhar took over as the ninth prime minister with outside support from the Congress, led by Rajiv Gandhi.

The Congress, piqued by what it called surveillance mounted by the Chandra Shekhar government on Rajiv Gandhi's home, initiated a heated debate in the Lok Sabha.

An emotional Chandra Shekhar announced his decision to resign just before he was to seek the House's approval for the vote of thanks to President R Venkataraman's address to the joint session of Parliament. The decision took the Congress by surprise. Venkataraman dissolved the Lok Sabha on March 13, 1991.

P V Narasimha Rao, who came to power after the April-May 1991 election in the midst of which Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, managed to last a full term despite the Congress not securing a majority in the Lok Sabha.

The last general election threw up a hung Parliament with the BJP emerging as the single largest party.

President Shanker Dayal Sharma invited the BJP to form the government, but Atal Bihari Vajpayee could survive for only 13 days as prime minister.

The Vajpayee government quit moments before the House was to vote on a confidence motion, paving the way for H D Deve Gowda to head the United Front coalition government with the Congress support from outside.

After the Congress withdrew support to his government in March, Deve Gowda became the second prime minister to lose a vote of confidence in the House.

Inder Kumar Gujral, who has been at the helm since April, had to bow out after Congress president Sitaram Kesri withdrew support. This followed the the United Front government's refusal to drop Dravida Munnetra Kazagham ministers. The DMK had been indicted by the Jain Commission interim report inquiring into the conspiracy behind Rajiv Gandhi's assassination.


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