Jawaharlal Nehru: The first and longest-serving PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has completed eight years in office, recently hinted that he was ready for a third term. Speaking virtually at a meeting in Bharuch where beneficiaries of various central government schemes were assembled, he said a “very senior” Opposition leader had once asked him what else was left for him to accomplish after becoming the PM twice. Modi said he would not rest till “100 per cent” coverage of government schemes was achieved in the country. Modi, 71, is first PM so far to be born after Independence. In the course of over seven decades, the country has seen 15 Prime Ministers, over a journey marked with social, political and economic changes. The Indian Express looks at India’s parliamentary democracy through the tenures of its PMs.


Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, remained in office continuously for a total period of nearly 17 years after Independence. His prime ministerial tenure spanning 6,130 days – the longest premiership in the country so far – over multiple terms ended with his demise on May 27, 1964 at the age of 74.

After heading the interim government in pre-Independence India, Nehru became the PM when the country got Independence on August 15, 1947, and headed the government in the run-up to the first general elections held in 1951-52.

In the elections to the first Lok Sabha, 14 national parties participated, which included the Indian National Congress (INC), All India Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS), Bolshevik Party of India, Communist Party of India (CPI), Forward Bloc (Marxist Group), Forward Bloc (Ruikar Group), Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Krishikar Lok Party, Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party, Revolutionary Communist Party of India, Akhil Bharatiya Ram Rajya Parishad, Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India Scheduled Caste Federation and Socialist Party. Besides, 39 state parties and 533 Independents had also contested the polls.

Jawaharlal Nehru. (Express archive photo_

Led by Nehru, the Congress party swept the elections, winning 364 of the total 489 seats for which elections were held. In fact, 3 of every 4 seats in the elections went to the Congress.

Of the 14 national parties, 11 entered the House. The three parties which could not win any seat in the first general elections were the Bolshevik Party of India, Forward Bloc (Ruikar Group) and Revolutionary Communist Party of India.

The BJS – whose offshoot like the BJP would eventually trounce the Congress in later decades – secured only 3 seats, including 2 from West Bengal and 1 from Rajasthan, with its founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee managing to win his Calcutta South East seat.

In the first Lok Sabha, the Nehru-headed Congress enjoyed a complete majority as there was virtually no opposition. Independents constituted the second largest group in the House, whose vote share (7 per cent) and seats (37), barring the Congress, outnumbered each of the remaining 13 national as well as 39 state parties. In fact, other than the Congress, only two national parties – the CPI (16 seats) and Socialist Party (12) – could reach a double-digit figure.

Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. S Radhakrishnan, Chou En Lai and Dr. Rajendra Prasad at Rashtrapati Bhawan in June 1954. (Express Archives)

In the second general elections in 1957, four national parties – the INS, BJS, CPI and Praja Socialist Party (PSP) – and 11 state parties were in the fray. Nehru again led the Congress to a landslide victory, with the party bagging 371 of the total 494 Lok Sabha seats. The other three national parties also improved their tally – the CPI won 27, the PSP 19 and the BJS 4. The combined number of seats won by the state parties stood at 31. However, like the first Lok Sabha, this time too the Independent candidates’ tally of 42 seats as a bloc was second after the Congress. In the second Lok Sabha, Nehru again did not have to face a strong opposition.

The elections to the third Lok Sabha in 1962 was Nehru’s last national election before his death. In this election, 6 national parties – the INC, CPI, BJS, PSP, Socialist (SOC) and Swatantra (SWA) – 11 recognised parties and 10 unrecognised parties fielded their candidates.

The Congress swept the third Lok Sabha polls too, winning 361 of the total 494 seats, although the party’s tally dipped marginally from its figure in the previous election. Other national parties, including the CPI (29 seats), BJS (14), PSP (12), SOC (6) and SWA (18), too improved their tallies. In this election, the number of Independent winners also came down to 20 from 42 in the previous House.

In the first general elections, Nehru contested and won from the Allahabad district (east) cum Jaunpur district (west) constituency. In the second and third Lok Sabha polls, he won from Phulpur seat. In the 1962 election, Nehru trounced Ram Manohar Lohia, a socialist stalwart, with a margin of 64,571 votes.

India’s longest-serving prime ministers

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