Indian General Assembly Election: Is 2018 A Repeat Of 1989?

Written By Shatabdi Chowdhury | Mumbai | Published:


  • Several events which have been taking place in the run-up to the 2019 general assembly elections take us back to a similar scenario, which occurred in 1989
  • The agendas which have taken the centre-stage ahead of 2019 polls present a striking similarity to the build up to the general election in 1989

Even as Republic TV on Friday revealed the Opposition’s plan entailing a mass resignation of Members of Parliament to force early general elections, several events which have been taking place in the run-up to the 2019 general assembly elections take us back to a similar scenario, which occurred in 1989.  

The agendas of ‘third front’ murmurs, anti-PM stance, focus on Hindutva-based politics, among others, have taken the centre-stage ahead of the 2019 polls and present a striking similarity to the build up to the general election in 1989 when present Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s father, Rajiv Gandhi, was Prime Minister. 


Mass Resignations Came In Final Term

In 1989, most of the MPs decided to resign en masse from Parliament to protest then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's refusal to step down to take responsibility for the scandal that broke out regarding the questionable dealing of the $1.3 billion arms purchase from Swedish arms company Bofors. 

Similarly, in 2018, there seems to be a plan in operation for 100 MPs to resign in Narendra Modi’s final term. 

Top Sources have told Republic that the Opposition is attempting a plan entailing mass resignation of MPs in an effort to pile up  pressure on the Narendra Modi-led NDA government for early general elections.

READ| SENSATIONAL POLITICAL PLOT: Opposition May Attempt Mass Resignations To Pressure Government Into Early General Elections

Opposition Magnifying One Issue  

In 1989, the Bofors scandal was magnified by the Opposition to demand Rajiv Gandhi’s resignation. 

After the Bofors scandal broke out, the combined opposition in 1989 mounted huge pressure on Rajiv Gandhi to resign. It was only after Rajiv Gandhi refused to resign, did 106 MPs resign from the House-- causing a re-election. 

Then Finance Minister V. P. Singh, uncovered details about Rajiv Gandhi’s government and alleged political corruption against Congress leaders. Later, after being transferred to the Defence Ministry, Singh uncovered Bofors scandal, which involved millions of US dollars and concerned alleged payoffs by the Swedish arms company Bofors through Italian businessman and Gandhi family’s alleged associate Ottavio Quattrocchi, in return for Indian contracts. After the revelations came to light, Singh was dismissed from office and later resigned his Congress membership. 

Similarly, in 2018, the Special category status demand by the state of Andhra Pradesh has united the political Opposition at a scale that they tried to move a no-confidence motion against the Modi government. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has been alleging that the Centre ignored the demand of 'Special Category Status' to Andhra Pradesh in the budget, while the latter has been brushing aside the charges.

WATCH| Exclusive: Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu Attacks Both BJP, Congress For Being Unjust

Focus On Targeting The Prime Minister

As the demand for Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministerial resignation grew and became the chant for the Opposition in 1989, the story is eerily similar in 2018 when the combined opposition has made the general election fight one which has the sole purpose to target the PM Modi. 

The TDP, YSRCP and Congress each attempted to move no-confidence motions against the Union Cabinet in the second half of the budget session. Five MPs of the YSRCP tendered their resignations to the Lok Sabha speaker on Friday, following which YSR supremo Jagan Mohan Reddy challenged Chandrababu Naidu to have his MPs do the same

READ| YSR Congress MPs Resign Over Special Category Status And Challenge Chandrababu Naidu And TDP To Do The Same

Anti-PM Opposition Unity

Like in 1989, the 2018 story also is one in which the Opposition may not be bound by ideologies but instead be bound by their anti-Prime Minister sentiment

VP Singh-led anti-Rajiv front: In 1989, Opposition parties like Lok Dal, Indian National Congress (Socialist) and Jan Morcha united under VP Singh to form the Janata Dal, an anti-Rajiv Gandhi front. Singh led the National Front coalition to victory in the 1989 elections.

Chandrababu Naidu leading anti-Modi opposition: TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu is reportedly stitching an anti-Modi front to defeat the BJP government-led by Narendra Modi in 2019 general assembly elections.

READ| Chandrababu Naidu Visits Parliament In Delhi; Meets Leaders And Distributes Booklets

Media Freedom In The Spotlight

Interestingly, media freedom vis-a-vis governance has been in the spotlight both in 1989 and 2018. 

Rajiv Gandhi introduced ‘anti media’ defamation bill ahead of the general elections. In the fag end of his term, Gandhi introduced an Anti-Defamation Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha but was later withdrawn. The bill was aimed at singling out journalists who according to the Government wrote defamatory articles. The journalists could also be sent to jail if they were found guilty of publishing "grossly indecent,” or “scurrilous" articles.

With spooking similarity, PM Narendra Modi repealed circular on fake news which was issued by the I&B Ministry earlier this week. The Modi government received massive public criticism after it issued the guidelines to curb Fake News by media houses. However, later Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally intervened and directed that the press release regarding fake news be withdrawn. He suggested that the matter should only be addressed by the Press Council of India. 

READ| Prime Minister Directs Withdrawal Of Fake News Notice; Onus Put On Press Council Of India

Hindutva Focus of Election

Interestingly, it was widely reported that Rajiv Gandhi promised ‘Ram rajya’ ahead of his big general election. Before the 1989 polls, Rajiv Gandhi reportedly tried the best he could to woo voters using the Hindu card-- a strategy his son, Rahul Gandhi, seems to have picked up in his last two assembly election campaigns in Gujarat and Karnataka. 

In 2018, both the BJP and the Congress have been lobbying hard to appease and garner the Hindu vote. While Rahul Gandhi has dynamically changed his approach to position himself as a ‘pro Hindu’ neta, the BJP has been whipping up sentiment in the name of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. 


READ| Congress President Rahul Gandhi Once Again Visits Somnath Temple

The 2019 General election is being seen as an ‘all versus Modi’ election wherein the entire Opposition seem to be coming together to stitch a strong front against the BJP juggernaut.

On Friday, Republic TV had exclusively learnt that the Opposition is attempting an audacious plan entailing a mass resignation of Members of Parliament (MPs) in an effort to pile pressure on the Narendra Modi-led NDA government for early general elections. Sources have also revealed that after to file a no-confidence motion against the Government, the Opposition is plotting the mass resignations as another strategy to corner Prime Minister Narendra Modi