After being elected member of Parliament in 1963, Jugnauth was named minister of state development and, in 1967, minister of labour. From 1967 to 1969 he was a district magistrate, then became crown counsel (1969) and later senior crown counsel (1971). In 1974, Jugnauth joined a new political party formed by students who had studied abroad, called the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (Mauritian Militant Movement—MMM). He soon became party chairman; and following elections in 1976, in which the MMM lost by only a narrow margin, Jugnauth found himself leader of the opposition. Six years later, in 1983, his party's victory made him prime minister. In 1983 he founded a new party, the Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien (Mauritian Socialist Movement—MSM). As head of the MSM, Jugnauth won elections in 1983, 1987, and 1991. He then lost to Navin Ramgoolam in 1995.
Political alliances are quickly formed, broken, and reformed with new partners in Mauritius. Ramgoolam won the 1995 general election through an alliance with Paul Berenger, another long-time member of Parliament (MP), MMM member, and former associate of Jugnauth. In 2000, Berenger switched sides, partnering with Jugnauth and the MSM for a coalition that led to a landslide victory, winning 54 or 62 seats in Parliament.