C. Rajagopalachari, an Indian politician, independence activist, lawyer, writer, and statesman, formed the Swatantra Party. He was the last governor-general of India before it became a republic in 1950. The Swatantra Party stood for maximizing individual liberty and minimizing government intervention in the lives of private individuals. This was in contrast to the ruling Congress Party, which favored socialist policies.
During a convention held in Bombay in August 1959, the Swatantra Party formally adopted twenty-one principles on issues of social justice, equality of opportunity, the role of the government, the constitution, the fundamental right to education, and bureaucratic management of the economy. These principles embodied the party’s core ideological commitments.
Although the party never came to power at the national level, it had considerable influence in certain regions, notably in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, and became the largest opposition party in the fourth Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) in 1967. It constantly challenged the Congress government’s policies, fostered political pluralism, and played a vital role in strengthening the democratic ethos of India by acting as a robust opposition party.
The party’s impact can be seen more distinctly in the 1990s, when India liberalized its economy, decades after the party ceased to exist. The liberalization loosely echoed the twenty-one principles put forth by the party. In this sense, the Swatantra Party was ahead of its time in recognizing the potential benefits for India of a market economy.