In the rich history of Indian democracy, there have been instances where the seemingly invincible pillars of political prowess faced unexpected defeats in Lok Sabha elections. These moments, akin to seismic shifts in the political landscape, not only redefine power dynamics but also underscore the vibrancy and unpredictability inherent in the democratic process. These instances […]

In the rich history of Indian democracy, there have been instances where the seemingly invincible pillars of political prowess faced unexpected defeats in Lok Sabha elections. These moments, akin to seismic shifts in the political landscape, not only redefine power dynamics but also underscore the vibrancy and unpredictability inherent in the democratic process.
These instances of political titans facing unexpected defeats in Lok Sabha elections serve as poignant reminders of the fluidity and unpredictability inherent in democratic processes. They underscore the fundamental principle that electoral outcomes are shaped not only by the charisma and legacy of leaders but also by the dynamic interplay of local factors, voter sentiments, and shifting political alliances. In the vibrant mosaic of Indian democracy, where power ebbs and flows with the tide of public opinion, even the mightiest among political giants are not immune to the winds of change.
History of elections in India is as eventful as it is colourful. Given below is a list of the ten most shocking results in the history of Lok Sabha elections.

Ambedkar loses in Bombay City (North)– 1951-52
Ambedkar, the most important man behind the Indian Constitution, the undisputed leader of the Scheduled Castes. He stood for election from Bombay (North) in the first Lok Sabha election in ’51-52 and lost. Not only did he lose, he stood fourth in the race. The seat was taken by Vithal Balkrishna Gandhi of the Congress.
On 27 September, 1951, Ambedkar resigned from Nehru’s cabinet ministry after Hindu code bill was defeated in parliament. He contested in the Bombay North first Indian General Election of 1952, but lost to his former assistant and Congress Party candidate Narayan Sadoba Kajrolkar. Ambedkar became a member of Rajya Sabha, probably an appointed member. He tried to enter Lok Sabha again in the by-election of 1954 from Bhandara, but he placed third (the Congress Party won). By the time of the second general election in 1957, Ambedkar had died.
It is a strange phenomenon of India’s democracy that one of the country’s most distinguished sons could not win a popular election Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar is one of the tallest personalities from India’s freedom struggle. He was 22 years younger than MK Gandhi, and was born into a Dalit family on April 14, 1891. He earned two doctorates in economics, from Columbia University, USA, and London School of Economics. He studied law at Gray’s Inn and became Bar-at-Law, ie a barrister. At his time he was probably the most academically qualified Indian living in England. He was chairman of the Drafting Committee, and is rightly called one of the chief architects of India’s constitution. This is one of the finest such documents in the world.
The Election Commission of India itself was born one day before the Republic of India. The EC had to educate the people about this novel experiment called democracy and elections. The first general elections to Lok Sabha and provincial assemblies were held between October 1951 and February 1952, and was then “the biggest experiment in democracy in history”, according to Sukumar Sen, India’s first chief election commissioner.
However, in that noise and din of the first parliamentary election we did see an anomalous outcome. That was the defeat of Dr Ambedkar himself. He stood from Bombay North Central constituency from the Scheduled Caste Federation party (which later become the Republican Party of India). He faced a quadrangular fight, with a relatively unknown Congress candidate, Narayan Sadoba Kajrolkar, and candidates from Communist Party and the Hindu Mahasabha. The only party that supported Ambedkar was the Socialists under Ashok Mehta. But SA Dange of the CPI campaigned bitterly against Ambedkar, thus causing a bitter rift between Communists and Dalits, some of which is felt to this day. Kajrolkar himself had been an assistant to Ambedkar, and was also from the backward classes. Such was the force of the Nehru wave that Kajrolkar won by 15,000 votes, and Ambdekar came fourth in that race. It is a strange phenomenon of India’s democracy, that one of its most distinguished sons, highly accomplished academically, a scholar and fearless leader and champion of the rights of the downtrodden, could not win a popular election. In fact Dr Ambedkar lost again, when he stood for a seat from Bhandara, in a bye election in 1954. Since he died in December 1956, it was too late for him to have contested India’s second parliamentary elections of 1957. He, of course, entered Parliament as member of the Rajya Sabha.

Raj Narain defeats Indira Gandhi– 1977
The Lok Sabha election of 1977 brought the country’s first non-Congress government to power. Indira Gandhi’s popularity after the 1971 war was dealt big blows by the students’ movement in Gujarat and Jayaprakash Narayan’s call for Total Revolution. When in 1975, Allahabad High Court set aside her election in 1971 on grounds of electoral malpractice, Indira responded by imposing the Emergency. In the election held after the Emergency was lifted, the people handed her a crushing defeat, and Morarji Desai became Prime Minister.
Raj Narain is unarguably the most famous giant-killer, so to speak, in the history of Indian politics, and his defeat of Indira Gandhi in 1977 Lok Sabha polls from Rae Bareli constituency is perhaps the most well-known election result in the history of democratic India. As is well known, it was Raj Narain who had filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court which eventually led to a situation where the prime minister could not vote in the proceedings of the Lok Sabha. In the massive anti-Indira wave in 1977, Raj Narain completed his victory over Indira by inflicting an electoral defeat on her after a legal one in 1975.

Minoo Masani loses in Rajkot– 1971
Foremost leader of the Swatantra party and one of the strongest voices against the socialism of the times, Minoo Masani had to face defeat in the electoral arena in 1971. He was defeated by over 60, 000 votes by Ghanshyambhai Oza of the Congress.
Minocher Rustom “Minoo” Masani, born on 20 November 1905, was an Indian politician, a leading figure of the erstwhile Swatantra Party. He was a three-time Member of Parliament, representing Gujarat’s Rajkot constituency in the second, third and fourth Lok Sabha. He won a bye election from Rajkot as a Swatantra party candidate. He represented Rajkot until 1971. He was one of the few politicians who opposed the nationalisation of banks by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Swatantra’s party was India’s single-largest opposition party in Parliament and Masani being its leader in Loksabha, initiated debate on finance bills and forced the Congress government to work rigorously. A collection of his speeches were published as Congress Misrule and Swatantra Alternative. In 1971 general elections Swatantra party did not perform well and he resigned the position of the party president. After 1971 he kept writing and editing his magazine Freedom First. This put him against the Congress Government when the government issued a censorship order on the magazine. He fought the order in court and won.

Narasimha Rao loses in 1984
The BJP won only two seats in 1984. In one of those seats, its candidate defeated someone who would go on to be the prime minister in seven year’s time. Narasimha Rao lost the Hanamkonda seat at a time when a deluge of sympathy for the Congress had swept across the country. The seat was won by Chandupatla Janga Reddy. The only other seat the BJP won in this election was Mehsana in Gujarat where its candidate A.K Patel emerged victorious.
BJP’s Chendupatla Janga Reddy, won the seat by 54,198 votes and garnered 263,762 votes while Rao received 209,564 votes in 1984.
Rao, was an Indian lawyer, statesman and politician who served as the 9th prime minister of India from 1991 to 1996. He was the first person from South India and second person from non-Hindi speaking background to be the prime minister. He is especially known for introducing various liberal reforms to India’s economy by recruiting Manmohan Singh as the finance minister to rescue the state from going towards bankruptcy during the economic crisis of 1991. Future prime ministers, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, continued the economic reform policies pioneered by Rao’s government. His achievements include steering India through the 1991 economic crisis, completing a tenure with a minority government, establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, starting India’s Look East policy, rekindling India’s nuclear programme, defeating the 1994 United Nations resolution against India, effectively handling and crushing insurgency in Punjab, tough policy against terrorism in Kashmir, and opening partial diplomatic relations with Taiwan. In 2024, he was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award by the Indian government.

Somnath Chatterjee loses Jadavpur– 1984
In 1984, the stalwart of the Communist party, Somnath Chatterjee lost in Jadavpur to a leader of the Bengal unit of the Congress– Mamata Banerjee. That would not be the only time Mamata would defeat the Communists in Bengal.
Congress contested from Mamata Banerjee and garnered 331,618 votes, which were 50.87% of total votes in the constituency. On the other hand, CPI (M) contestant Chatterjee received 311,958 votes which are 47.85% of the total votes in 1984. The victory margin was very narrow and created headlines when Chatterjee was lost to Mamata Banerjee.
Chatterjee was a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) from 1968 to 2008. He became a Member of the Lok Sabha in 1971 when he was elected the first time as CPM (Marxist Communist) candidate from Burdwan (Lok Sabha constituency).[6] Subsequently, he was re-elected nine times, except once when he lost to Banerjee in the Jadavpur Lok Sabha constituency in 1984. From 1989 until 2004 he was the leader of his party in the Lok Sabha. He was elected for the tenth time in 2004 as a member of the 14th Lok Sabha from Bolpur Lok Sabha constituency, which is considered to be a CPI(M) stronghold. Following the 2004 election, he was appointed the pro tem speaker and subsequently on 4 June 2004 he was unanimously elected as the Speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha.

Vajpayee loses Gwalior– 1984
Many non-Congress stalwarts were swept away in 1984. This included Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He was defeated in Gwalior by a margin of close to two lakh votes by Madhavrao Scindia.
Congress’ contestant from Gwalior Madhav Rao Scindia received 307,735 votes while Vajpayee received less than half votes at 132,141 in 1984.
Vajpayee was Prime Minister of India in 1996 and from 1998 till 2004. He was the leader of Bhartiya Janata Party from 1989 to 2004. He was elected ten times to Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament. He also served as a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house for two terms.
Vajpayee was elected to the Indian parliament for the first time in 1957 representing Balrampur. He was further elected to the Lok Sabha nine times from 1967 to 2004 with the only exception of 1984.

CK Jaffer Sharief loses in Bangalore (North)– 2004
Congress stalwart and former Union Railways Minister lost to HT Sangliana, who was contesting only his first election in 2004. BJP’s Dr. H. T. Sangliana won 473,502 votes in the 2004 general election from Bangalore North constituency and defeated Sharief, who received 4,43,144 votes. Sharief was one of the senior most Indian National Congress leaders. He was the Railways Minister of the Government of India from 1991 until 1995. He started his career in the Indian National Congress under Nijalingappa. After a split in the Congress, he took the side of Indira Gandhi. In 1980 as Railways minister, he was instrumental in gauge conversion of railways in the state, where all or most of the different gauges of tracks were converted to broad gauges, and thereby saving Railways a lot of money. He was also instrumental in getting the Wheel and Axle Plant in Bangalore.
In 2012, Sharief was cleared by the Supreme Court of charges relating to expenditure on a trip to London for medical treatment. Sharief had taken several ministry officials with him, which the court found was not inappropriate. Corruption charges were leveled against him during his tenure as Railway Minister.

Deve Gowda loses in Kanakpura– 2004
Former prime minister Deve Gowda was in a shock in 2004 when Tejashwini See Ramesh of the Congress defeated him in Kanakpura by over a lakh votes. In 2004, Janata Dal (Secular) contestant H. D. Devegowda received 581,709 votes and Congress contestant D. K. Shivakumar garnered 5,29,133 votes.
He was an Indian politician who served as the 11th prime minister of India from 1 June 1996 to 21 April 1997. He was previously the 14th Chief Minister of Karnataka from 1994 to 1996. He presently is a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha representing Karnataka. He is the national president of the Janata Dal (Secular) party. Born in a farming family, he joined the Indian National Congress party in 1953, and remained a member until 1962. He was imprisoned during the Emergency. He became President of the state unit of Janata Dal in 1994, and was considered to be a driving force in the party’s victory in Karnataka. He served as the 8th Chief Minister of Karnataka from 1994 to 1996. In the 1996 general elections, no party won enough seats to form a government. When the United Front, a coalition of regional parties, formed the central government with the support of the Congress, Deve Gowda was unexpectedly chosen to head the government and was elected Prime Minister. During his tenure as prime minister, he also served as Home Minister for some time. His prime ministerial tenure lasted for less than a year. After his prime ministerial tenure, he was elected to the 12th (1998), 14th (2004), 15th, and 16th Lok Sabha, as Member of Parliament for the Hassan Lok Sabha constituency. He lost Lok Sabha elections in 2019 from Tumkuru but has been elected to Rajya Sabha since.

BK Handique loses Jorhat– 2014
Six-time MP from the Congress, Bijoy Krishna Handique was in for a shock in 2014 when Kamakhya Prasad Tasa of the BJP defeated him by a margin of 102,420 votes. Handique was an Indian politician who was a member of the 15th Lok Sabha of India. He represented the Jorhat constituency of Assam and was a member of the Indian National Congress (INC) political party. He was the only son of Krishna Kanta Handique, a renowned Indologist. Handique was a senior Member of Parliament from the North Eastern Region and represented the Jorhat Lok Sabha, Assam for six consecutive terms since 1991 to 2009. He also served as a Rajya Sabha member from 1980 to 1986. He had been elected to the Assam State Assembly in 1972 from the Jorhat constituency.

Arun Jaitley defeated in Amritsar– 2014
In an election marked by the Modi wave, it was his close aide, Arun Jaitley, who was the only one amongst the senior leaders of the party to not win a Lok Sabha seat. Congress’ contestant Captain Amarinder Singh gained 4,82,876 votes in 2017 Amritsar Lok Sabha polls while shockingly BJP’s contestant and veteran leader Arun Jaitley garnered 3,80,106 votes. A member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Jaitley served as the Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs of the Government of India from 2014 to 2019. Jaitley previously held the cabinet portfolios of Finance, Defence, Corporate Affairs, Commerce and Industry, and Law and Justice in the Vajpayee government and Narendra Modi government. From 2009 to 2014, he served as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He was a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India.
He was chosen as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha on 3 June 2009 by L.K. Advani. As the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, he participated in the debates on the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha and also supported Anna Hazare in his 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement for the Jan Lokpal Bill. He successfully introduced the 84th amendment to the Constitution of India in 2002, freezing parliamentary seats until 2026, and the ninety-first amendment to the Constitution of India in 2004, penalising defections. However, being in the party since 1980, he never contested any direct election until 2014.
He was the BJP candidate for the Amritsar seat in the Lok Sabha (replacing Navjot Singh Sidhu) for the 2014 general election, but lost to the Indian National Congress candidate Amarinder Singh. He was elected as a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat.
He was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh in March 2018.