chapter  4
Mrs. Gandhi’s Pyramid: The New Congress
WithStanley A. Kochanek
Pages 32

The elections of 1971 and 1972 in India marked the restoration of Congress dominance at the center and in the states, a return to strong central leadership, and the apparent emergence of a more broadly based, ideologically coherent party. On the surface, the "Indira wave" appeared to have restored the pattern of a one-party dominance that characterized the Nehru era. Yet a closer analysis reveals a distinctly different pattern of dominance that contributed to a severe political crisis in the midst of the gravest economic crisis in postindependence India. These simultaneous crises of political and economic performance threatened the legitimacy of the system and ended in the declaration of an internal emergency in June 1975, the first such domestic emergency since independence. The declaration of the emergency, the decision to postpone elections scheduled for March 1976, and talk of revising the constitution mark the end of the political system that has existed since 1947 and the beginning of a new phase of Indian political development. What were the characteristics of the new pattern of Congress dominance? How did it differ from the period of centralization and convergence of the Nehru era? What were some of the inherent dilemmas or tensions of the new system? What were the consequences of 94these tensions and how were these consequences related to the declaration of a national emergency in June 1975? What were the implications of these developments for the Congress and the future of the Indian political system? In short, was the declaration of an emergency in June 1975 a reversal of trends or the culmination of a process of systematic change?