The Aam Admi Party winning 28 seats in the Delhi Assembly elections led to predictions that the Congress should prepare for its last rites, and that the BJP can forget about getting a majority in the Lok Sabha. For the AAP will rule hereafter. But experience indicates this may well be a hasty conclusion.

Elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies were being held in the 1950s and 1960s simultaneously across the country, but due to the dissolution of Assemblies before the completion of their term in some States, that pattern ended.

In the 1967 elections, three years after Jawaharlal Nehru passed away in 1964, the Congress was in disarray. Different parties, most of them hastily formed, contested and the Congress lost in nearly all the northern States. The others stitched together hasty coalitions and in most States what were called Samyuktha Vidhayak Dal governments were formed. The SVD groups disappeared after some time largely due to infighting, and the Congress came back in many States.

From the early 1970s when Indira Gandhi was in power, Jayaprakash Narayan carried on a vigorous campaign against corruption. The campaign attained good traction and Mrs. Gandhi was nervous. She proclaimed the Emergency and arrested most of the top leaders, including JP himself, Morarji Desai, L.K. Advani and A.B. Vajpayee. This made JP’s campaign even more popular. Mrs. Gandhi withdrew the Emergency and went to the polls in 1977. JP united all those supporting him and the Janata Party emerged, and it won a majority in the Lok Sabha.

On JP’s advice, the party elected Morarji Desai the Prime Minister. His government was working smoothly but there were some who wanted to be Prime Minister themselves. In early 1979, a group of MPs withdrew their support to Desai. By then JP had died. Some intermediaries are said to have suggested to Desai that money could buy enough MPs to save the government. He would rather die than do such a thing, Desai is said to have replied. His Ministry fell. The Janata Party disintegrated. In the next elections, the Congress returned to power.

The AAP is a new broom. We have to wait to see if it continues to sweep well.

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