Gandhist Party of India
Founder Indira Gandhi
Founded 1966


Merged into


New Gandhist Party, Socialist Party of India

Ideology Populism, Liberal Nationalism, Democratic Socialism, Secularism, Social Liberalism
Political position Left to Centre Left
Official colours Red

The Gandhist Party was formed in 1966 by Indira Gandhi, who wanted to centralise control from the ever splitting and bickering liberal party. Indira went on to win the 1968 presidential election on a Gandhist party ticket.

In 1970 Gandhi and her party ran and won again. Indira Gandhi's personality seemed to be the only thing holding the rival factions of the party together, building a bridge across the political spectrum from Socialist and Trade Unionist elements on the left, Liberal and Internationalist elements in the centre, and even right wing nationalists.

In 1974 she was constitutionally prevented from running for another term. She stayed on as chairwoman of the party, but without her overall leadership the party began to face splits. Veteran politician V. V. Giri was selected as the parties nominee, not because of political expertise or charisma, but because it was thought the 79 year old could not outshine Mrs Gandhi. Not surprisingly the Gandhists lost the election. The rifts continued over the next two elections, and following the 1982 defeat Indira Gandhi resigned as party chairwoman. Her successor was her son Rajiv.

Rajiv, less authoritarian than his mother seemed to be able to bring the party together, rather than drive it apart. In 1986 the Gandhists were returned to the presidency, with Rajiv at the helm. The moderate government toned down the ongoing arms race with Pakistan, and implemented social reforms. Rajiv was reelected in 1990 and 1994, continuing reforms.

When he too was forced to step down after serving 3 full terms, his italian born wife, Sonia, succeded him as chairman and won the 1998 election. Sonia toned down the reforming agenda, and expelled 320 marxist party members in 1999. Her attitude to governing the party was very similar to her mother in law's, in playing the left and right wing factions off against each other to prevent any threat to the leadership. In 2002 she won a vast landslide. However by 2006 her popularity had began to sag due to her alienation of Nationalist's due to her non-Indian ethnicity, and her "left vs right" leadership tactics. She still won the election, but gained under 50% of the vote.

In 2007 she resigned as party chair, her daughter Subrata succeeding her. Subrata, educated in America, was widely influenced by the political philosophies of Ronald Reagan and Elizabeth Dole. She shifted the party to the centre, gaining much needed support from the new young middle and upper class Indian's (of which she was one). In 2008 Subrata announced her intention to run for the presidency in 2010, but that "The [Gandhist] Party needs a complete facelift, we need to get rid of these militants and form the party into a new party to make a modern India". Several weeks later the "facelift" began with a purge of nearly one-third of the parties officials deemed as "lefties" and the scrapping of all the democratic socialist policies pursued by her predecessors. Sonia Gandhi, still president, who had remained quiet over the previous statements made by her daughter publicly criticised her, saying that her actions were "completely unnecessary". By 2009 the president no longer had the support of her party and that June the New Gandhist party was formed by Subrata Gandhi. The new party had a much more centrist agenda aimed at encouraging capitalism in India. By September the old Gandhist party had lost the majority of its support. The remnants of the party remained whilst Sonia Gandhi served the last few months of her term as president, before disbanding on June 28th 2010, the day after Sonia's term expired. Most hardline socialist's broke away to form the new Socialist Party of India, which following the banning of the communist party in 2011 is the main left wing party in India.