The 1951 general election was of great importance to the country as it was the very first general election held in India after Independence. Based upon universal adult suffrage, these elections were an opportunity for anyone with 21 years or older in age to participate in the democratic process. Organizing the first-ever elections in India was an arduous task and it took around four months: October 25, 1951 to February 21, 1952 to get over. Though the Indian National Congress was the largest political party in India at that time, favorable atmosphere was created for opposition parties too to take part in the elections. Before Independent India went to the polls, two former cabinet colleagues of Nehru established separate political parties to challenge the INC’s supremacy. While Shyama Prasad Mookerjee went on to found the Jana Sangh, Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar revived the Scheduled Castes Federation (which was later named the Republican Party).
The election was held in 26 Indian states. Around 170,000 candidates wanted a chance in the state assemblies for around 3,278 seats. Besides, there were 489 seats to be filled in the Lok Sabha, for which around 1,800 candidates contested. It was the INC that tried its best at all levels to win the interest and trust of people across the nation. In fact, Jawaharlal Nehru, in his election campaigning, approached about one tenth of India’s population, or 35 million people, by covering about 40,000 km. 17.6 Cr Indians, 85 per cent of whom couldn’t read or write, formed the electorate. Symbols were used on ballot papers for voters who couldn’t read. Voter turnout was 45.7%.
The Indian National Congress party won 364 of the 489 seats with around 45% votes all over the country, over four times as many as the second-largest party. B. R. Ambedkar was defeated in the Bombay constituency by a little-known Kajrolkar. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the country. The Congress formed the government at the Centre and in all the states. It did not get a majority on its own in four states-Madras, Travancore-Cochin, Orissa and PEPSU (Patiala and East Punjab State Union)—but formed governments even there with the help of independents and smaller, local parties which then merged with it.