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The Swatantra Party came into being at meeting convened in Madras (now renamed Chennai) on June 4, 1959 by the All India Agriculturists Federation. The immediate provocation for the formation of the Swatantra Party was the adoption of the Nagpur Resolution by the Congress Party (1958). The attempt to commit the country to collective farming, a State Monopoly in the food grains trade and to impose ceilings which would reduce the peasant permanently to economic helot age (serfdom) by denying him a monthly income of more than Rs.300 for himself and his family; this lead to considerable unease and unrest in rural India. Urban India too was getting increasing restless with the discontent against “Socialism” and the pattern of centralized Planning.

Those present at this meeting that led to the decision to form the Swatantra Party included: C.Rajagopalachari, N.G, Ranga, M.R.Masani, Bhailalbhai Patel, M.Ruthnaswamy, V.P.Menon, Khasa Subba Rao, Prof. M.A., Venkata Rao, M.A.Srinivasan, K.B.Jinaraja Hegde and Mr.Jayaprakash Narayan present by special in vitiation.

Two months later, on August 1 1959, the Swatantra Party was formally inaugurated by C.Rajagopalachari at a Preparatory Convention in Bombay attended by 654 delegates including a majority of those who attended the Madras meeting and such luminaries as K.M.Munshi, Homi Mody and S.K.D.Paliwal. The Convention adopted the new Party’s Statement of Principles.

A year later at its First National Convention in Patna on March 19 and 20, 1960 the Party adopted its Constitution, and a Statement of Policy titled “To Prosperity Through Freedom”. The Party clearly and openly declared its opposition to “Socialism”: which it described as “State Capitalism”, and its mission to “Save Freedom”, “preserve Family Economy”, “Restore Fundamental Rights” and to provide the country “A Democratic Alternative”. “For Farm, Family and Freedom” became the signature slogan of the Swatantra Party

In the 1967 General Elections to the 4th Lok Sabha, the Swatantra Party emerged as the single largest party in the opposition with 44 seats. This was achieved in just 8 years after its formation. Sadly the party collapsed at the national level seven years later in 1974. The Maharashtra branch of the Swatantra Party managed to survive and led a tenuous existence through the nineteen seventies and eighties. In 1996 the Party sought registration with the Election Commission - a requirement introduced in the ‘eighties. When the registration forms were surprised we were surprised to discover that along with registration we had also to mandatorily include in the party’s constitution its “allegiance to secularism, socialism and democracy.” We declined to “swear allegiance” to” socialism” and consequently our application was rejected. On December 15 1994 we filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court. The Petition was admitted but hearings have not begun even as we write this, 19 years later. Technically therefore the Swatantra Party, Maharashtra is alive but awaiting the Court verdict.

Meanwhile every now and then we read of even well known persons, concerned with the rapid deterioration of the country in all spheres wanting the “revival” of the Swatantra Party. We, decided that we would make available the story of this extraordinary party which, had it lived, would have provided credible policy alternatives to the many problems that are besetting the country.

This introductory is by S.V.Raju, formerly Executive Secretary of the Swatantra Party at its National Headquarters for 14 of the 15 years of its existence and who enjoyed the trust and confidence of the leadership at the national and state levels of the Swatantra Party - including Rajaji, Minoo Masani, N.G.Ranga, Narayan Dandeker, H.M.Patel et al.


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