First two general elections in Odisha: Know how Congress struggled to form govt

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | May 18, 2024 IST

Subrat Das

The first two general elections in Odisha did not yield political stability. These two polls –held in 1951-52 and 1957- did not garner absolute majority to any party in the state assembly.

The first general election in Odisha was held for 36 long days (from December 20,1951 to February 15,1952), This poll took place on the basis of universal adult suffrage for the first time. 

The area of the state, number of districts and number of assembly seats was raised following the merger of ex-princely states with the Odisha province.. The number of districts was increased from six to thirteen and the state assembly had 76 single member constituencies and 32 joint seats. Provision was made for election of one general caste member and one Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe member from the joint seat.

However, Congress Party, which was popular for its role played during the freedom struggle for achieving independence  from the British yoke, did not fare well, compared to the previous two elections in 1937 and 1946. The Congress Party secured 68 seats, while the Ganatantra Parishad, founded by ex-rulers of princely states, won 31 seats.

The Congress Party, though had secured a majority in the state assembly, did not display a strong role due to acute factionalism.

Similarly, the second general election, which was held in March, 1957 did not yield a political stability for the Congress Party for the same reason. The Congress Party, which had fielded 140 candidates, was able to win 56 seats. On the other hand, the Opposition parties had given a strong fight. Ganatantra Parishad won 51, Praja Socialist Party (PSP)-11, Communist Party -9 , Sanjukta Socialist Party (SSP)-1, Jharkhand Party-5 and Independents had secured 17 seats.

Initially, the Congress  was not in a position to form the government. Later, due to joining of some independents in the party, the Congress Party was able to form the government with a feeble margin. It was a test for the Congress Party every day to survive. 

By the Budget session of the state assembly in 1959, it was difficult for the Congress Party to run the government. One day, the Opposition suddenly demanded voting on a Bill and the ruling party got defeated by 12 votes ( 43 by 51). The Congress government fell. Later, a Congress-Ganatantra Parishad coalition government was formed on May 22, 1959.  

However, the coalition government did not survive long due to severe factionalism in the Congress Party and the President’s Rule was promulgated in the state for the first time in 1961. A mid-term poll was ordered in June, 1961 and Congress Party returned to power with a majority.

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