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Timeline: Key dates in India's election history

Published: 6:03PM Wednesday April 15, 2009 Source: Reuters

  • Rahul Gandhi, son of chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi (Source: Reuters)
    Rahul Gandhi, son of chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi - Source: Reuters

India, the world's largest democracy, holds a general election in April and May.
Here is a timeline of key dates in India's election history:

1947- Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the founding fathers of independent India, becomes the country's first prime minister. His appointment starts a long period of political dominance of the Congress party and the country's most powerful dynasty, the Gandhi-Nehru family.

1952- Nehru leads Congress to a clear victory in the country's first ever general election and retains the prime ministership, which he held until his death in 1964.

1967- Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi leads Congress to another victory and becomes the country's only female prime minister. She wins another election victory in 1971 - the year India trounced Pakistan in the third war between the two countries since 1947.

1975-1977- Indira Gandhi imposes a State of Emergency, which critics says gave her near dictatorial powers.

1977- Morarji Desai, an ageing supporter of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophies, becomes Prime Minister as the Janata coalition defeats Indira Gandhi, to form the first non-Congress government.

1980- Indira Gandhi re-elected again, but is assassinated four years later by her Sikh bodyguards after a suppression of Sikh separatism that culminated in the storming of the Golden Temple.

1984- Rajiv Gandhi, Indira's son and a former commercial pilot, becomes India's youngest prime minister and leads Congress to victory. Gandhi is voted out five years later after becoming embroiled in the Bofors scandal, a defence deal, of which he was posthumously cleared in 2004.

1996- The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), founded in 1980, wins power for the first time. The charismatic Atal Bihari Vajpayee becomes Prime Minister for most of the next eight years.

2004- The BJP loses to Congress despite presiding over healthy economic growth. Its India Shining campaign fails to resonate with voters. Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of Rajiv Gandhi, leads a Congress victory, but steps aside to let Manmohan Singh become prime minister, ending sniping about her nationality.