|Founded||4 June 1959|
|Split from||Indian National Congress|
|Merged into||Janata Party|
The Swatantra Party was an Indian conservative political party that existed from 1959 to 1974. It was founded by C. Rajagopalachari in reaction to what he felt was the Jawaharlal Nehru-dominated Indian National Congress's increasingly socialist and statist outlook. Swatantra (Freedom) stood for a market-based economy with the "Licence Raj" dismantled, although it opposed laissez faire policies. The party was thus favoured by some traders and industrialists, but at the state-level its leadership was dominated by the traditional privileged classes such as zamindars (feudal landlords) and erstwhile princes. Located on the Right of the Indian political spectrum Swatantra was not a communal party; its membership was not restricted on the basis of religion, unlike the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Jana Sangh. In 1960, Rajagopalachari and his colleagues drafted a 21-point manifesto detailing why Swatantra had to be formed, even though they were hitherto Congressmen and associates of Nehru during the struggle for independence. The Prime Minister was highly critical of Swatantra, dubbing the party as belonging to "the middle ages of lords, castles and zamindars".
In the 1962 general election, the first after its formation, Swatantra received 6.8 percent of the total votes and won 18 seats in the third Lok Sabha (1962–67). It emerged as the main opposition to the dominant Congress in four states—Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Orissa. By the next general election in 1967, Swatantra had become a significant force in some parts of India; it won 8.7 percent of the votes and became the single-largest opposition party in the fourth Lok Sabha (1967–71) with 44 seats. In 1971, Swatantra joined a "Grand Alliance" of parties from across the political spectrum who aimed to defeat Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The party secured eight seats, winning only 3% of the votes. The next year, in 1972, its founder Rajagopalachari died, and Swatantra declined rapidly. By 1974, it merged into the Charan Singh-led Bharatiya Kranti Dal, another coalition committed to anti-Congressism.
When Jayaprakash Narayan was asked in 2014 whether he saw his Loksatta Party "as a modern-day re-embodiment of the Swatantra Party", he replied "in a large measure, yes. ... The founders of Swatantra Party were visionaries and had India followed their leadership, we could have been where China is today, economically."
- Gayatri Devi
- K. M. Munshi
- Mariadas Ruthnaswamy
- Minoo Masani
- N. G. Ranga
- Piloo Mody
- S. V. Raju
- V. P. Menon
- Indian National Congress breakaway parties
- Bipan Chandra et al. India Since Independence. Penguin India. 2008 [2011 digital edition].
- Mariadas Ruthnaswamy. "Swatantra Party and its leaders". Swarajya. 30 July 1960.
- Mariadas Ruthnaswamy. "Is Swatantra inspiring enough?". Swarajya. 22 October 1960.
- H. R. Pasricha. The Swatantra Party—Victory in Defeat. Rajaji Foundation. 2002.
- Howard L. Erdman. "India's Swatantra Party". Public Affairs, vol. 36, iss. 4, pp. 394–410. Winter 1963–64.
- Howard L. Erdman. The Swatantra Party and Indian Conservatism. Cambridge University Press. 1967. Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2013.
- Madhavankutty Pillai. "Last Man Standing". Open. 5 April 2014.
- Rajmohan Gandhi. Rajaji: A Life. Penguin India. 1997.
- Ramachandra Guha. India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy. HarperCollins. 2008.
- Rasam Vasanti. Swatantra Party: a political biography. Dattson Publishers, Nagpur. 1997.
- Rasam Vasanti. "Role of Swantantra Party as an Opposition Party (National Level)". Readings on Parliamentary Opposition.
- C. Rajagopalachari : Save freedom. Why Swatantra, 1960
- Minoo Masani: To provide A Democratic Alternative. Why Swatantra, 1960
- K. M. Munshi: To Restore Fundamental Rights. Why Swatantra, 1960
- N. G. Ranga: To Preserve Family Economy. Why Swatantra, 1960
- A number of links at sabhlokcity.com
- Rediff On The NeT: Rajmohan Gandhi on C Rajagopalachari and the birth of the Swatantra Party
- Revive the Swatantra Party
- Minoo Masani and the Swatantra Party