A Game And No Winners!

After spending decades as an opposition leader, Vajpayee's BJP emerged as the single largest party in the 1996 general election. The president invited the BJP to form the government, but how long will this government last?
The first Minister of the country for 13 days; Source: Zee News

The first Minister of the country for 13 days; Source: Zee News

Given the size of India's democracy, elections are no less than a festival in the country. Massive parties, great as their names are, representing the interests of millions stand on the pedestal and ask to be judged. The answers are written in blue ink. It's either a Yes or a No for each politician standing up there. At the end of this festival, the country is ushered in a new direction for five years, broken and shaped again as the rulers bend it according to their ideas, ideas that were chosen by the people.

India was walking into an election in 1996. Parties released their manifestos, people cast their votes but the results were not what one would expect.

The highest assembly of the country, the Lok Sabha, was left without a government. No party could form the majority and the democracy hung as people's votes were equally divided amongst the competitors of power!

The 1990s had been a different decade altogether. So much had happened, so many new trends emerged, that the subcontinent witnessed. In the beginning, an ancient monument marked by Babur's name, a holy building, was returned to dust as its heritage was wiped out. There were new liberalization policies that changed the face of the economy in the country. Finally, there was the Mandal Commission's Report in whose protests upper-caste women held placards that asked for jobs for their husbands!

It should come as no surprise that people were confused and divided on who should hold power.

Yet, it was visible that the country was moving away from the ideas it had held on to up until then. A change was required. A change sought. A change finally achieved!

A government had to be formed, no matter people's divided opinions and so the President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma, called upon the Bhartiya Janata Party, the one that had emerged the largest in the elections and proposed them to form a government. They were given a deadline. Start ruling by 31st May, or leave the state of ruling for others!

The party rushed into filling the power vacuum and accepted the proposal. For the first time, Bharatiya Janata Party started ruling from the centre. They had the country in their hands The Party President, Atal Bihari Vajpayee read the Prime Minister's oath on 15th May 1996.

The government was formed but there was still the problem of forming a majority. BJP had 160 seats. They only needed 112 more. Not a very big number; but their rush to form the government said that they had something in their fold to erase the magical number. They did try a lot. They talked with many MPs and asked them to come to their side of the table. Luck didn't favour them, nor did their arguments. Maybe when our guardians tell us not to hurry in excitement, they are right!

The convincing, the requests, the greed for power, the efforts to divide and break the Congress, nothing worked for Vajpayee's government.

In fact, the angered MPs of other parties went to the Parliament House to oppose the President's decision to let BJP form the government. The nation looked towards the Lok Sabha, while the chaos unfolded every day.

Time went quickly out of the window and the day of the test came. The BJP still lacked a considerable degree as its communal ideas kept the regional parties away from forming a coalition. On 28th May, 13 days after Vajpayee had taken the oath, the government fell.

In his address to the nation that day, he justified his taking power given people's support and opportunity. He had no intentions to back off and tried his best to stand where the nation wanted him to stand.

He submitted his resignation after the stirring speech before a Confidence Vote could be passed in the assembly. Following this, in the next two years, two more governments raised to power headed by H. D. Deve Gowda of Janata Dal and I. K. Gujral of United Front. Nobody could hold power for long and the country went back into elections in 1998.

This time, Vajpayee and his party came back to power with a majority. Congress failed to get a majority the second time in line. It did not take the nation a long time to forget the blunder of a 13-day government, as the new policies and polemics soon took the limelight and erased the stain forever.


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