The Winter session of the Indian parliament concluded on Wednesday, the 23rd December with regrettable events. Reports say that the Rajya Sabha was only 44% productive with 47 hours lost due to disruptions of the proceedings led by the Congress party causing wasteful public expenditure of Rs.9.9 crores. It is pertinent to note that the disruptions were made on various allegations, the primary allegation being ‘leashing out of political vendetta’ on the top two Congress leaders over the ‘National Herald’ case.
The session came to a grounding halt with the Speaker of Lok Sabha having to apologize for her remark that “the party had no national interest but only vested interest”, conspicuously referring to the Congress party. Several questions arise at this juncture. Is Congress really the one with no National interest? Is it a party with vested interest? Is it the handmaid of a single family? And was disruption of the session directed by the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family to safeguard their personal interest?
Contemporary political analysts might try to answer the questions with reference to the National Herald case. Their opinion will then be confined to facts about this particular case: that the sellers and buyers of the disputed assets of the Associated Journals Limited are all the same people, including Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul. They have their lineage flowing from Motilal Nehru, all of them having led the party and been the Prime Ministers of India from Jawaharlal Nehru’s times.
However, the answers need to be framed within historical context. The crux of the matter is that today’s Congress party is not the 130 year old Indian National Congress (INC) it is claimed to be (Congress celebrated it’s 131st birthday on the 28th of December). This is not the party that had the privilege of having been led by towering personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose, Rajendra Prasad and others. This isa not the party that nurtured the young Indian democracy under efficient leadership of people like Jawaharlal, Patel, Shastri and others after Indian independence. Instead, today’s Congress party is only 46 years old; the beginning of it’s political presence can be dated to 1969. It is a party created purely to cater to Indira Gandhi’s political interests. This can be easily gathered from various sets of facts that I shall present below.
During the early decades after independence, the INC was really democratic. Every State committee had its own chief elected by the State party cadre. Powerful state leaders became Chief Ministers of the States. Even at the centre, the Congress Working Committee (CWC - also known as ‘the Syndicate’) and the Congress President were elected ‘democratically’, in the truest sense of the term. It is quite interesting to note that at most times the Head of the Government of India (Prime Minister) and the President of the ruling INC party were two different people. They were independent of each other in their own spheres to some extent but had influence on each other. Even when the most powerful leader in the Government i.e., Prime Minister Jawaharlal dissented with the opinions of CWC, the latter under efficient leadership could influence the former by the Party’s mandate.
However with the arrival of Jawaharlal’s daughter Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister, the INC started losing its democratic character. Indira was not as tolerant as her father, who could respect the party’s decision irrespective of his personal difference of opinion. Factually speaking, soon after her elevation as the PM, the INC leadership condemned many of her moves, such as the ‘devaluation of Indian Rupee’ and the ‘contemplation of Indo American Educational Foundation’, which she made unilaterally without consulting the party. This is testimonial from the then Party president (known as the king maker) Kamaraj’s statement “A big man’s daughter, a small man’s mistake”, referring to Jawaharlal as the ‘big man’ and himself as the ‘small man’. As the party’s most powerful person and the President, he had supported Indira’s candidature as the PM against Morarji Desai’s candidature.
Furthermore Indira’s supporters were denied seats to the 1967 election. Even the controversial but veteran party member Krishna Menon was denied his traditional seat despite Indira’s personal request. With the tables turning against her, she even casually told a press conference “Here is a question of whom the party wants and whom the people want. My position among the people is uncontested” referring to the Syndicate’s intention in making Morarji Desai the PM after the election in 1967 that followed.
Getting back to the context, in 1969 the Party announced Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy as the INC’s candidate for election as the ‘President of India’ against Indira’s wishes. Unable to cope with the party’s decision, she indirectly supported V.V. Giri who contested the election as an independent candidate. Much to the dismay of the party leadership, V.V. Giri won the election defeating the party’s official candidate despite having the largest number in the Parliament and State Legislatures. This was followed by party President Nijalingappa’s open letter to Indira, pointing out her ‘preference of personal loyalty over loyalty to the party’ ultimately resulting in her expulsion from party membership on 29th October 1969. Thus Indira lost her membership of today’s notional ‘Grand Old Party’, the truly ‘Indian National Congress’.
The original INC under the leadership of Nijalingappa and other veterans like Kamaraj and Morarji Desai continued working as the INC Organization. Indira Gandhi enjoyed support within and outside the Parliament with some members of the party who came to be known INC (Requisitionist). The INC (R) won the subsequent elections in 1972 defeating the INC (O) hands down. During the black days of Emergency in 1976-1977 many INC (O) leaders were imprisoned. In a desperate attempt to end the ‘Indira saga’, INC (O) merged itself with Jana Sangh and other such parties to form the Janata Party in 1977. The Janata Party came out winning the 1977 elections by defeating Indira’s INC (R).
The ‘Grand Old Indian National Congress’ lost its identity somewhere within the Janata Party in 1977 which took different shapes later and split into several organizations, including today’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is also quite interesting that later during Janata Party’s short stint as the ruling party, Indira further cleansed her party by carving out the INC (Indira) excluding those party members who deposed against her before the ‘Shah Commission’ (set up to investigate various allegations of corruption and impropriety of office leveled against her). In 1980, the Indira Congress won elections by defeating the rest of INC (R) and the Janata Party. With that the Indira Congress rose to be the undisputed INC of today’s Indian politics.
History clearly shows that today’s Congress party was a handmaid of Indira Gandhi, stitched to accommodate her political needs. Only her loyalists could become members of her cabinet. Under her discretion a person could be appointed, removed or changed as the Chief Minister of a State. After her demise in 1984, the party went on to make her son Rajiv the PM despite his political inexperience. The trend continued when his wife Sonia Gandhi was forced into de facto party leadership in the 1990’s and subsequently in 2007, when her son Rahul was anointed the General Secretary of the party and then in 2013 when he was appointed as the Vice President.
Irrespective of particular scandals like the ‘National Herald’ scandal, today’s Congress party is nothing more than an entity that was created to cater to the political needs of Indira and her lineage. Is it not safe to conclude then that it will continue to do so because of that very fact?
Nirmalkumar Mohandoss is an Advocate at the Madras High Court. He has a B.A., B.L., (Hons) from the School of Excellence in Law. He is keenly interested in public policy, and its impact on social issues.
The Winter session of the Indian parliament concluded on Wednesday, the 23rd December with regrettable events. Reports say that the Rajya Sabha was only 44% productive with 47 hours lost due to disruptions of the proceedings led by the Congress party causing wasteful public expenditure of Rs.9.9 crores. It is pertinent to note that the disruptions were made on various allegations, the primary allegation being ‘leashing out of political vendetta’ on the top two Congress leaders over the ‘National Herald’ case.
The session came to a grounding halt with the Speaker of Lok Sabha having to apologize for her remark that “the party had no national interest but only vested interest”, conspicuously referring to the Congress party. Several questions arise at this juncture. Is Congress really the one with no National interest? Is it a party with vested interest? Is it the handmaid of a single family? And was disruption of the session directed by the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family to safeguard their personal interest?
Contemporary political analysts might try to answer the questions with reference to the National Herald case. Their opinion will then be confined to facts about this particular case: that the sellers and buyers of the disputed assets of the Associated Journals Limited are all the same people, including Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul. They have their lineage flowing from Motilal Nehru, all of them having led the party and been the Prime Ministers of India from Jawaharlal Nehru’s times.
However, the answers need to be framed within historical context. The crux of the matter is that today’s Congress party is not the 130 year old Indian National Congress (INC) it is claimed to be (Congress celebrated it’s 131st birthday on the 28th of December). This is not the party that had the privilege of having been led by towering personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose, Rajendra Prasad and others. This isa not the party that nurtured the young Indian democracy under efficient leadership of people like Jawaharlal, Patel, Shastri and others after Indian independence. Instead, today’s Congress party is only 46 years old; the beginning of it’s political presence can be dated to 1969. It is a party created purely to cater to Indira Gandhi’s political interests. This can be easily gathered from various sets of facts that I shall present below.
During the early decades after independence, the INC was really democratic. Every State committee had its own chief elected by the State party cadre. Powerful state leaders became Chief Ministers of the States. Even at the centre, the Congress Working Committee (CWC - also known as ‘the Syndicate’) and the Congress President were elected ‘democratically’, in the truest sense of the term. It is quite interesting to note that at most times the Head of the Government of India (Prime Minister) and the President of the ruling INC party were two different people. They were independent of each other in their own spheres to some extent but had influence on each other. Even when the most powerful leader in the Government i.e., Prime Minister Jawaharlal dissented with the opinions of CWC, the latter under efficient leadership could influence the former by the Party’s mandate.
However with the arrival of Jawaharlal’s daughter Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister, the INC started losing its democratic character. Indira was not as tolerant as her father, who could respect the party’s decision irrespective of his personal difference of opinion. Factually speaking, soon after her elevation as the PM, the INC leadership condemned many of her moves, such as the ‘devaluation of Indian Rupee’ and the ‘contemplation of Indo American Educational Foundation’, which she made unilaterally without consulting the party. This is testimonial from the then Party president (known as the king maker) Kamaraj’s statement “A big man’s daughter, a small man’s mistake”, referring to Jawaharlal as the ‘big man’ and himself as the ‘small man’. As the party’s most powerful person and the President, he had supported Indira’s candidature as the PM against Morarji Desai’s candidature.
Furthermore Indira’s supporters were denied seats to the 1967 election. Even the controversial but veteran party member Krishna Menon was denied his traditional seat despite Indira’s personal request. With the tables turning against her, she even casually told a press conference “Here is a question of whom the party wants and whom the people want. My position among the people is uncontested” referring to the Syndicate’s intention in making Morarji Desai the PM after the election in 1967 that followed.
Getting back to the context, in 1969 the Party announced Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy as the INC’s candidate for election as the ‘President of India’ against Indira’s wishes. Unable to cope with the party’s decision, she indirectly supported V.V. Giri who contested the election as an independent candidate. Much to the dismay of the party leadership, V.V. Giri won the election defeating the party’s official candidate despite having the largest number in the Parliament and State Legislatures. This was followed by party President Nijalingappa’s open letter to Indira, pointing out her ‘preference of personal loyalty over loyalty to the party’ ultimately resulting in her expulsion from party membership on 29th October 1969. Thus Indira lost her membership of today’s notional ‘Grand Old Party’, the truly ‘Indian National Congress’.
The original INC under the leadership of Nijalingappa and other veterans like Kamaraj and Morarji Desai continued working as the INC Organization. Indira Gandhi enjoyed support within and outside the Parliament with some members of the party who came to be known INC (Requisitionist). The INC (R) won the subsequent elections in 1972 defeating the INC (O) hands down. During the black days of Emergency in 1976-1977 many INC (O) leaders were imprisoned. In a desperate attempt to end the ‘Indira saga’, INC (O) merged itself with Jana Sangh and other such parties to form the Janata Party in 1977. The Janata Party came out winning the 1977 elections by defeating Indira’s INC (R).
The ‘Grand Old Indian National Congress’ lost its identity somewhere within the Janata Party in 1977 which took different shapes later and split into several organizations, including today’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is also quite interesting that later during Janata Party’s short stint as the ruling party, Indira further cleansed her party by carving out the INC (Indira) excluding those party members who deposed against her before the ‘Shah Commission’ (set up to investigate various allegations of corruption and impropriety of office leveled against her). In 1980, the Indira Congress won elections by defeating the rest of INC (R) and the Janata Party. With that the Indira Congress rose to be the undisputed INC of today’s Indian politics.
History clearly shows that today’s Congress party was a handmaid of Indira Gandhi, stitched to accommodate her political needs. Only her loyalists could become members of her cabinet. Under her discretion a person could be appointed, removed or changed as the Chief Minister of a State. After her demise in 1984, the party went on to make her son Rajiv the PM despite his political inexperience. The trend continued when his wife Sonia Gandhi was forced into de facto party leadership in the 1990’s and subsequently in 2007, when her son Rahul was anointed the General Secretary of the party and then in 2013 when he was appointed as the Vice President.
Irrespective of particular scandals like the ‘National Herald’ scandal, today’s Congress party is nothing more than an entity that was created to cater to the political needs of Indira and her lineage. Is it not safe to conclude then that it will continue to do so because of that very fact?