Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel are said to have held the view that the INC was formed only for achieving independence and should have been disbanded in 1947. However, at the time of independence, the INC (led by Jawaharlal Nehru) was a major political organization in the country, and was established as the major political party. The Congress thus, considering the perceived need for a stable leadership and guiding vision after the terrible chaos and confusion following the Partition of India and Independence, was re-established as an electoral party in independent India. Across several general elections, the party ruled uninterrupted until 1977, and has remained a major political force. After the murder of Gandhi in 1948, and the death of Sardar Patel in 1950, Jawaharlal Nehru was the sole remaining iconic national leader, and soon the situation became so that Nehru was key to the political potency and future of the Congress. Nehru embraced secularism, socialist economic policies and a non-aligned foreign policy, which became the hallmark of the modern Congress Party. Nehru's policies challenged the landed class, the business class and improved the position of religious minorities and lower caste Hindus. A generation of freedom fighting leaders were soon replaced by a generation of people who had grown up in the shadow of Nehru. Nehru led the Congress Party to consecutively majorities in the elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962. After Nehru's death in 1964, the party's future first came into question. No leader was competitive enough to touch Nehru's iconic status, so the second-stage leadership mustered around the compromise candidate, the gentle, soft-spoken and Nehruvian Lal Bahadur Shastri. Shastri remained Prime Minister till his own death in 1966, and a broad Congress Party election opted for Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter, over the right-wing, conservative Morarji Desai. Indira Gandhi
Congress mural in Kolkata The first serious challenge to Congress hegemony came in 1967 when a united opposition, under the banner of Samyukt Vidhayak Dal, won control over several states in the Hindi belt. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Nehru, and Congress president, was then challenged by the majority of the party leadership. The conflict led to a split, and Indira launched a separate INC. Initially this party was known as Congress (R), but it soon came to be generally known as the New Congress. The official party became known as Indian National Congress (Organisation) led by Kamaraj. It was informally called the Old Congress. As Indira Priyadarshini had control over the state machinery, her faction was recognized as the "real" INC by the Election Commission of India, although her organization was the break-away group. The split can in some ways be seen as a left-wing/right-wing division. Indira Gandhi wanted to use a populist agenda in order to mobilise popular support for the party. She raised slogans such as Garibi Hatao (Remove Poverty), and wanted to develop closer ties with the Soviet Union. The regional party elites, who formed the INC(O), stood for a more conservative agenda, and distrusted Soviet help. INC(O) later merged into the Janata Party. Gradually, Indira Gandhi grew more and more authoritarian. Following allegations of widespread rigging in the general elections, a court overturned Indira Gandhi's victory in the Parliamentary constituency. Facing growing opposition she proclaimed a state of National Emergency in 1975, curtailed the powers of the courts, and unleashed a police state. After she lifted the emergency in 1977, more Congress factions were formed, the one remaining loyal to Indira Gandhi being popularly known as Congress(I) with an 'I' for Indira. The Congress (I) was routed in the general elections by the Janata Party, but the coalition government fell apart in two years. The Congress party returned to power in the ensuing 1980 elections. In 1984 Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards, in revenge for Operation Blue Star. In the following days more than six thousand Sikhs were killed in the 1984 riots, mainly in Delhi, by activists and leaders of the Congress Party. On the other hand three thousand to eight thousand Hindus were slaughtered in the Punjab from 1984 to 1991 by militants seeking a separate homeland. . About the riots, the new PM and Indira's son, Rajiv Gandhi remarked, "When a big tree falls, the earth is bound to shake." The Post-Indira Era
Election symbol of the Congress After Indira, her son Rajiv Gandhi, took over as Congress leader and led the party to victory with a large majority in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections. It governed from 1984-9 and then was defeated in the 1989 general election. Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated by the LTTE during the course of the election campaign in 1991. Following Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, P.V. Narasimha Rao succeeded him as Congress leader and became prime minister. The 1990s was a period of prolonged crisis for the Congress. After gradually losing political influence the party asked the Rajiv Gandhi's widow, Sonia, to accept the position of Congress President. She refused at the time, and the Congress stuck with Narasimha Rao. Rao dramatically changed the party's traditionally socialist policies and introduced major economic reforms and liberalization, with the help of then Finance minister (and future Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh. Nonetheless, his involvement in the bribery of members of parliament(first found guilty in 2000 and on appeal was cleared of charges in 2002) was a major issue which led to the downfall of the Congress in 1996, and subsequently his fall out with other leaders in his own party and eventual exit from politics[?]. For all its follies, this Congress government was significant because it provided a stable central government that brought the economy back on track. Former treasurer Sitaram Kesri took over the reins of the party and oversaw the Congress support to the United Front governments that ran from 1996 - 1998. During his tenure, several key leaders broke away from the party, and serious infighting broke out among those left. In 1998, Sonia Gandhi finally accepted the post of Congress President, in a move that may have saved the party from extinction.