By Partha Pratim Mazumder
The Indian National Congress is more than 130 years old, much older than the Gandhis or the Nehrus. The fact is that Congress was there even before the Gandhis came into existence and it doesn't need any Sonia or Rahul for its survival now. The history of Congress needs to be understood for this. we might be surprised to know that from 1885 till the 1930s, Congress president was elected for only one year. Senior leaders can be elected more than once but after some years from their previous term. This is the same party where Sonia Gandhi continues to be in the president's post for about 20 years without any democratic election. She stepped down only for her son, Rahul Gandhi. Subhash Chandra Bose was elected as the Congress President in 1938 with the support of Nehru, Gandhi and Patel.
The next year, Bose went against Gandhi due to Gandhi's reluctance for Bose to become the party President again and ideological differences. Bose didn't want any sort of compromise with the British; he, in fact, wanted to launch Civil disobedience when the British got busy in some other war. Gandhi was willing to cooperate with the British. Bose had won the election the second time but Gandhi pressurized the CWC and all of its members resigned. Ultimately, Bose had to resign in 1939. This was the importance of the President's post that such great personalities used to clash over it.
A similar debate happened in 1949 when Patel wanted Purshottam Das Tandon to become the party President against Nehru's will. The problem Nehru had with Tandon was that he was a conservative . Tandon was still elected as the next President. Nehru threatened to resign; After the death of Patel in December 1950, Tandon lost cooperation and had to resign in September 1951.The party then passed a resolution requesting Nehru to take the president's post and Nehru became the president without an election. This is where the problem started and the decline of Congress and of democracy in Congress had begun. Indira Gandhi had also started the tradition that whoever would be the Prime Minister would also be the President. P.V. Narasimha Rao had also applied the same formula in the early 1990s.
This has spoiled the foundation of the party. There was no enthusiasm, no new ideas with the new leaders. Any new initiative, membership drive, groundwork, everything got lost amidst the dirty politics. Now comes the worst part, The party which fought for our freedom and brought democracy has itself seized to be democratic. Corruption allegations and the defeat in Elections 1996 made P.V. Narasimha Rao resign.Sitaram Kesari became the next party president. Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi was rising to power. Sonia Gandhi agreed to campaign for the party in 1997. Sitaram Kesari was losing support. In a regular CWC meeting on March 14, 1998, a resolution was passed to elect Sonia Gandhi as the next party President. She is now the longest-serving Congress President and her term continued for 19 years. She has also won elections twice. But the working of the party, its democracy, fresh blood, energy strategy, everything was spoiled.
Since the days of Nehru and especially after the creation of Congress (Indira), a Congress system was evolved with certain traits of political culture. The ideological foundation given by Gandhiji eroded over the period. Nehru intentionally first tried to give the cover of democratic socialism, with the immense centralisation of power. Indira Gandhi further diluted the democratic values and ‘Indira is India’ became the ideology; secularism with blatant communalism and socialism with rampant institutionalized corruption became the norm. The confused position on secularism completely engulfed the party in the cobwebs of appeasement, putting community or caste interests above the party. Politics without any clear ideological agenda is the greatest harm that Congress system has done to the polity of Bharat.
Indira Gandhi, of course, did not take her defeat in a happy stride. She said, “Nobody can throw me out of the Congress. It is not a legal question, nor one of passing a resolution to pronounce an expulsion order. It is a question of the very fibre of one’s heart and being.” The dilution of Congress’s political identity has definitely created more space for other political parties to rise. Putting dynastic interests above not just the party but even national interests has been the accepted practice. till now one dynasty becoming the glue to bind the vested interests of other families evolved as a leadership model.
(The opinion voiced in this article is of the author and do not necessarily reflects the opinion of the portal)