Back to the Future: The Congress Party's Upset Victory in India's 14th General Elections
ASIA-PACIFIC CENTER FOR SECURITY STUDIES HONOLULU HI
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The outcome of Indias 14th General Elections, held in four phases between April 20 and May 10, 2004, was a big surprise to most election-watchers. The incumbent center-right National Democratic Alliance NDA led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party BJP, had been expected to win comfortably--with some even speculating that the BJP could win a majority of the seats in parliament on its own. Instead, the NDA was soundly defeated by a center-left alliance led by the Indian National Congress or Congress Party. The Congress Party, which dominated Indian politics until the 1990s, had been written off by most observers but edged out the BJP to become the largest party in parliament for the first time since 1996.1 The result was not a complete surprise as opinion polls did show the tide turning against the NDA. While early polls forecast a landslide victory for the NDA, later ones suggested a narrow victory, and by the end, most exit polls predicted a hung parliament with both sides jockeying for support. As it turned out, the Congress-led alliance, which did not have a formal name, won 217 seats to the NDAs 185, with the Congress itself winning 145 seats to the BJPs 138. Although neither alliance won a majority in the 543-seat lower house of parliament Lok Sabha the Congress-led alliance was preferred by most of the remaining parties, especially the four-party communist-led Left Front, which won enough seats to guarantee a Congress government.
- Government and Political Science