Parliamentary Chamber: Lok Sabha


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  Lok Sabha

Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  16 February 1998
07 March 1998

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the elective seats of the Lok Sabha following the premature dissolution of this body on 4 December 1997. General elections had previously been held in April/May 1996.

Background and outcome of elections:

  On 28 November 1997, the minority coalition Government headed by Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral collapsed and resigned after the Congress (I) party had withdrawn its support of this 14-party alliance over controversy surrounding involvement in the 1991 assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. After the country’s main political blocs failed to form a realigned coalition, President of the Republic K.R. Narayanan dissolved Parliament on 4 December and called early general elections - the second in two years. Nationwide polling was scheduled for five different dates over a three-week period.

Besides Congress (I), the main group opposing the ruling, center-left United Front was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Campaign issues centered on how to achieve political stability, tackling corruption and rejuvenating the country’s economy. On this last item, the centrist Congress adhered to its pro-reform platform of recent years, favoring foreign investment and a loosening of state controls on the insurance sector. The right-wing, Hindu BJP, for its part, championed economic nationalism and promised to shield domestic industry from international competition; it advocated restricting direct investment to non-priority areas. Local, down-to-earth issues (jobs, public services, safe drinking water, electricity, sanitation, etc.), however, were of equal if not greater concern to electors. Altogether 4,750 candidates representing seven national parties, 35 regional parties, many minor groups or independents vied for 539 Lok Sabha seats; among these were 271 women. The total number of contestants was only about one-third of that for the previous (1996) elections. Opinion polls initially favored the BJP, but Congress made a comeback when Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, widow of Rajiv Gandhi, entered the fray and spoke up for the party. Another hung Parliament - with no one bloc securing an absolute majority - was thus widely predicted.

During polling, thousands of paramilitary troops were deployed alongside local police forces to guard against incidents. The final outcome after the last election day - voting being staggered due to the size of the electorate and to allow security forces to protect polling stations - gave the BJP, led by Mr. L.K. Advani and former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and its allies a total of 252 seats while the center-left United Front - an assembly of regional, leftist and low-caste parties - and its allies captured 97. For its part, Congress, led by Mr. Sitaram Kesri, and its allies secured 165. More than half of the MPs who sought re-election were defeated.

Post-election maneuvering gave the BJP-led alliance a working majority of some 265 seats. In this context, on 15 March, Mr. Vajpayee was invited by President Narayanan to form the next Government. He did so on 19 March and, as Prime Minister, heads a 41-party coalition Cabinet.

Round no 1 (16 February 1998): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 602,340,382
Voters 373,678,215 (62.04%)
Blank or invalid ballot papers 6,956,377
Valid votes 366,721,838

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 181
Indian National Congress (INC) 141
Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) 32
Samajwadi Party (SP) 20
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) 18
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) 17
Samata Party 12
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) 12
Biju Janata Dal (BJD) 9
Communist Party of India (CPI) 9
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) 8
West Bengal Trinamool Congress 7
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) 6
Janata Dal 6
Shiv Sena 6
Independents 6
Nominated 2
Others 51

  Plus 2 vacancies

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 499
Women: 44

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Copyright 1998 Inter-Parliamentary Union