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.
In the 1971 elections Raj Narain stood against the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in her constituency of Rae Bareili in the state of U.P. Raj Narain lost with a huge margin. He brought out an election petition against Indira Gandhi alleging that she won the election by flouting the election laws. The suit was instituted against her in the Allahabad High Court. Raj Narain’s primary contention was that Indira Gandhi had infringed the provisions of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 during her campaign as she had been assisted by a Gazetted government officer who was on duty – Yashpal Kapur, the police, the armed forces, used government vehicles, exceeded the prescribed limit on campaign expenditure and had also distributed liquor and clothing to the voters in the constituency.
Hearing of the case began on 15 July 1971 before Justice B.N. Lokur, who rejected Raj Narain’s request of the prime minister being called to depose before the court and also for certain government documents be placed before the court so as the court could take cognizance of them. Raj Narain did not admit defeat and moved the Supreme Court where a 3-judge bench heard his request and allowed the appeal. The case proceeded in the Allahabad High court until 1974 when Mrs. Gandhi filed an appeal in the Supreme Court requesting “privilege” for not having to produce the “blue book” (Rules and Instructions for the Protection of Prime Minister when on Tour or in Travel) in the court as evidence. A bench of five Supreme Court judges allowed her appeal setting aside the order of the High Court demanding the production of the Blue Book, and directed the case to the High Court this time to be heard by a single judge, Justice J.L.Sinha.
The case was heard accordingly and the verdict was delivered on the 12th of June 1975 charging the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to be guilty of corrupt practice for having used the government officers in her campaign and unseating her from the membership of the Lok Sabha. Justice Sinha also granted the respondent’s a stay for 20 days on the verdict. The events subsequently led to the imposition of emergency in India.