In 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of national emergency. Thousands of opposition political activists, as well as leaders were arrested. Calling elections in 1977 the government released political prisoners and weakened restrictions and censorship on the press. When opposition leaders sought the support of Jayaprakash Narayan for the forthcoming election, he insisted that all opposition parties form a united front.
The Janata party was officially launched on 23 January 1977 when the Janata Morcha, Charan Singh’s Bharatiya Lok Dal, Swatantra Party, the Socialist Party of India of Raj Narain and George Fernandes, and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) joined together, dissolving their separate identities. Although the political ideologies of Janata Party constituents were diverse and conflicting, the party was able to unite under the over-reaching appeal of Jayaprakash Narayan, who had been seen as the ideological leader of the anti-Emergency movement and now the Janata party. Morarji Desai was elected the first party chairman. Ramakrishna Hegde became the party general secretary, and Jana Sangh politician Lal Krishna Advani became the party spokesperson.
As it became clear that Indira’s Emergency rule had been widely unpopular, defections from the Congress (R) government increased. A former Minister of Defence, Jagjivan Ram left the Congress (R) and formed the Congress for Democracy along with the former Chief Minister of Orissa Nandini Satpathy, former Union Minister of State for Finance K. R. Ganesh, former M.P. D. N. Tiwari and Bihar politician Raj Mangal Pandey. Congress for Democracy contested the election with the same manifesto as the Janata party and subsequently merged.
Janata party won a sweeping victory, securing 43.2% of the popular vote and 271 seats. With the support of the Akali Dal and the Congress for Democracy, it had amassed a two-thirds, or absolute majority of 345 seats. Raj Narain defeated Indira in Rae Bareilly constituency. The first non-Congress Government was formed with Moraraji Desai as a Prime Minister. However continuous in-fighting and ideological differences made the Janata government unable to effectively address national problem and was defragmented losing elections in 1980.