Who was the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India?

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New Delhi: On August 15, 1947, India gained independence from the yoke of British colonial rule after around 200 years. The first Lok Sabha elections in India were held in 1952 and were won by the Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress party. Since then, the subsequent Prime Minister of India, Gulzarilal Nanda, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi all belonged to the Congress party. It was in 1977 that India first got a non-Congress Prime Minister, and it was none other than Morarji Desai.

Morarji Desai was once denied the post of the PM

Born on February 29, 1896, in the Bombay Presidency, Morarji Desai served as the Home Minister, Finance Minister, the second Deputy Prime Minister of India and also the Chief Minister of Bombay State before becoming the Prime Minister of India. He began his political career with Congress in 1934 and stayed there till 1969. After the demise of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the second full-time Prime Minister of India, Desai emerged as a strong candidate for the post of Prime Minister but was pipped to the position by Indira Gandhi in 1966.

Becoming the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India

After Indira Gandhi started her first stint as the PM of India, Morarji Desai was appointed as the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister till 1969. In those years, the Congress party witnessed a split into two factions. Indira Gandhi set up her Indian National Congress (Requisitionists), which came to be known as Congress (R) or Indicate. Another faction was Congress (O) or Syndicate/Old Congress led by K Kamaraj and later Morarji Desai.

In the 1971 general election, Congress (O) won 16 Lok Sabha seats while Congress (R) won 352 seats. However, Indira Gandhi was disqualified and she later imposed the Emergency. It was lifted in 1977 and the opposition parties fought against her Congress under the umbrella of the Janata Party in the general elections that year. And Indira’s Congress was handed a crushing defeat in that election. While the Janata Alliance won 295 seats, Congress (R) won 154 seats.

Morarji Desai, who was at the forefront of the Janata Alliance, was elected Prime Minister, and he became the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India. Also, he was the second and the last PM to have been born in the 19th century. It was also the first non-Congress government in India. But it lasted for only five years and collapsed in 1979. In 1980, Lok Sabha elections were held once against and this time, Indira’s congress (R) registered a landslide victory against the Janata Party.

Desai became the PM at the age of 81 and remains the oldest to hold the post. After the collapse of his government, he retired from all political posts but continued to campaign for the Janata Party in 1980. A recipient of Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, Desai passed away on April 10, 1995, at the age of 99.

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