E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Ace Political Expert (APE) is a veritable Wikipedia on democratic norms all over the world. He can tell you how the process of election takes place in Holland, reel off biodata of contesting candidates in Finland, and the process of recounting votes in Sivaganga.
APE also knows how democracy works in one of the oldest, largest political parties in the world.
As we settled down to have coffee on the lawns of Hotel Ramya, I said: “Sonia Gandhi has been elected president of the Congress for the fourth time. This must be a record of sorts. Can you tell me how the whole process of election operates in the Congress?’
“A bit of background is necessary to understand this,” said the APE, as he took his first sip of coffee. “The Indian National Congress (INC) Party was founded in 1885 by a foreigner, a Scotsman actually, Allan Octavian Hume, who arranged its first meeting in Bombay with the approval of the then viceroy Lord Dufferrin. Please note Congress has a history with foreigners since its inception!”
“In 1907, the party was split into two factions, one led by Balgangadhar Tilak called garam dal (hot faction) and the other by Gopalkrishna Gokhale called naram dal (the soft faction). It shows leaders were allowed to have radically opposite views. They didn’t have to toe the line of their bosses all the time. It was truly democratic then.”
“I am surprised to hear that.”
“One interesting fact was that some of the leaders who differed with the Congress split, set up their own party called Swaraj Party. Prominent among them were Annie Besant, Chittaranjan Das and even Motilal Nehru! It shows dissent was alive and kicking those days and they could even contest, fight election for the party presidentship.”
“Though Congress was the single largest party, it had stalwart-leaders like Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Rajaji, Acharya Kripalani, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Sarojini Naidu among others bringing in divergent views. It was far from becoming a party belonging to a single feudal family run by its members.”
“In 1938 and 1939, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was elected as president of the party but was expelled for his socialistic views and Congress veered to becoming a pro-business party of Bajajs and Birlas! But what was significant they had elections for the post of the President.”
“Just can’t believe it!”
“After the World War I, Mahatma Gandhi was associated with the party as its spiritual leader and mass icon even as younger men and women became presidents of the Congress party after contesting and winning in elections. No son of Gandhi was anointed a youth Congress leader. For that matter, Kasturba Gandhi did not became president of the Congress Party to ‘assist’ the Mahatma.”
“Are we talking of the same party or what? Nobody from the Gandhi family had its members in any responsible position? Where did they go wrong?” I queried.
“It was after independence, in fact quite some time after, when Prime Minister Nehru was getting old, they thought of a younger person as Congress president ‘to assist’ him and what better person than his own daughter?”
“Looks like the first steps of dynasty politics or modern politics era!”
“That’s how the Gandhi’s name entered Indian politics although it was quite a different Gandhi altogether. The Father of the Freedom Movement never aspired for any post nor ‘groomed’ his children for the coveted post!”
APE gulped down some cold water without touching the rim: “The INC after the split, etc became Congress (I), “I” for Indira, named first time after a person. From then on, it was a matter of personal ambition of grooming sons, daughter-in law and grandsons with the party members working to make sure the same family stay in power even when out of power!”
“‘It’s all so nice to know history. Now only we know why there are 55 nominations to one person even as nobody dares to stand for election! One more thing; doesn’t the grand old party have norms for various posts?”
“Of course they have! Nobody can continue as President in taluk, district level and state level as chief for more than two terms…. except for the post of national president which is now a life term post! The INC, which once believed in freedom of thought, action and practiced internal democratic traditions such as elections for various posts and had titans as its members is now populated with pygmies.”
Very informative. I don’t think this practice is going to stop anytime soon. Perhaps, the son Gandhi will be their leader soon (and for a very long period)
Well written article, for a change churumuri has turned its attention away from yeddi, anyways it is all the more evident that the party is really is in a hell of a mess after seeing the CWG saga and how they are handling the situation…
Hmm.. trying to make up the numbers for “fair and balanced” quota ala Fox news ;)
How easily have they slipped into Gandhi from Ghandy!
Had Gandhi ever said a thing or two qualifying his promotion of Nehru as the political leader of the new India or if Vallabh Bhai Patel had had a little more support in the party, things might be different for all of us today.
Even JawaharLalNehru is a product of dynasty politics, he was Indias Prime Minister just because of Motilal Nehru, and Mahatma Gandhi was the culprit this time.
If the Indian Natinal Congress is reduced to the pitiable status of a proprietary dynastic enterprise, Mahatma Gandhi is to be blamed, fully and squarely. He allowed his love and blatant bias for Jawaharlal Nehru to manipulate the proceedings of the crucial CWC meeting held in 1947 to elect who should be the first Prime Minister of India. It is said that 12 of the then 14 PCC Presidents wanted Sardar Patel, not Nehru to become the first Prime Minister of India, yet, Gandhiji and Nehru received this decision with pregnant silence, rather than wholeheartedly welcoming the same. The others attending this meeting, including Patel, understood the meaning of this silence, and opted in favour of Nehru becoming the First Prime Minister of India. Patel was too great a patriot to clamour of a position! This is vividly reflected in the biographical film on Patel, produced some years later.
The enigma that will last for all time, is why did Gandhiji behave in this manner…..why was he so obsessed with the idea of Nehru being more suited to become the Prime Minister as against the transparently more deserving Sardar Patel?
There was nothing in common between Gandhiji and Nehru…….one was a celibate while the other was a known womaniser…..one touched no alcohol, while the other drank every day…… one was a strict vegetarian while the other was a hardcore meat eater…..one never smoked, which the other smoked regularly and in public…….one dressed as a fakir, was bare chested to mirror the poverty of the Indian, the other dressed like a prince………
The only Nehru who truly sacrificed for India’s independence was not Jawaharlal Nehru, but his father Motilal Nehru……..an aristocrat to the core, a lawyer with a booming practice, one who lived a life of luxury and who had many beautiful women as his mistresses………the last attribute is the one his son Jawaharlal not only inherited, but also made international, by his relationship with Edwina….which the British through her husband used to devide and destroy chances of India which then included Pakistan, living in peace and becoming prosperous.
When I once wrote a piece that described Nehru as the father of Nepotism in India, I was rediculed. I stand by that statement. This is what has reduced the Congress………then a party full of great leaders, to the present pitiable condition in which followers alone who answer the prescription that they crawl when asked to bend, bask in glory that servitude confers.
If the Indian National Congress inspired ordinary men and women to rise to supreme levels of leadership, commitment and sacrifice that won India our independence then, now, that same party, reduced to that of a proprietory dynastic enterprise, has meant loyalty to the party to be the be all and end all consideration to be in it and to thrive being in it.
The other political combinations that attack the Congress, are unfortunately even worse. The Congress, in whatever shape and condition it survives now, is even so a better choice in this natinal scene of tweedum and tweedle dee.
where is Mr G.subramanya iyer , the hounder of The Hindu as well as Indian national congress , Ms Annie Besant , Mr G.K.Gokale etc in the group photo .
agree with most of your ideas. but
> The other political combinations that attack the Congress, are unfortunately
> even worse. The Congress, in whatever shape and condition it survives now, is > even so a better choice in this natinal scene of tweedum and tweedle dee.
is utterly wrong. Loksatta party is an alternative, admittedly a non-entity right now, can be a viable alternative to dynastic congress, “communal” BJP and aimless local parties. It is for concerned citizens like you and me to promote and support Loksatta (or atleast some of the ideas proposed by them like clean politics, accountability, financial transperency etc.)
This dynastic curse that India has inherited is due to some genetic abnormality which can not be just wished away. All the wise men and women surrounding the President Sonia Gandhi are more interested in deriving power in association and loyalty is only the facade. This malaise for hunger of power started even before India became independent. Miss Vyarawalla, the first woman photo-journalist in her book ‘Camera chronicles’ has come up with some interesting and credible evidence.Vyarawalla along with P.N.Sharma were the only two witnesses who clandestinely captured the historic meting on June 14 1947 in which a few’ wise men’ claiming to speak for whole of India ,laid the foundation for the vivisection of the country.Several issues have been discussed but what is germane to the present issue is her comment;’The Congress party seemed to be in a hurry to gain power’ She further states;’The Congress Party has treated India as their jagir, giving away part of the country as if it belongs to them’ Nehru’s fatal decision of referring Kashmir to Security Council for plebiscile is haunting us now. It may be interesting to quote what Gen Thimmaiah addressing students of Manas Gangotri some time during 1961said; He said that in his time he has seen lot of death and suffering when his people died and that he never shed a tear for it was war. But when in another two hours he could drive away the marauders backed by Pakistan he received an urgent message from Nehru to cease action and return to earlier position it was then he said he broke down and cried. Now the whole of India is crying. In fact sometime before Sardar Patel died wrote a detailed letter to Nehru warning about Tibet and also the Chinese design and obviously Nehru did not pay attention. Now we know what is ailing India. Even in respect of police action in Hyderabad it is the firmness not to withdraw the military which was on the move that saved the situation instead of listening to Nehru to halt action as Jinnah had died and speculated what the world would think of India.
The congress being split into many factions has been ridiculed by many, but the one by Master Hiranayya is perhaps the super and best!
Linga cong and langa cong
cheddi cong and langa cong
Brilliant piece by ERR.
This discourse must make it to University syllabus, for Group Discussion.
Dynastic rule is an Indian culture.
Who rules Shiv Sena? Udhav who is son of Bal Thackeray.
Who rules JDS? Kumar anna who is Deve Gowda’s son.
Who rules NC? Omar Abdullah who is Farooq Abdulla’s son who is Sheikh Abdullah’s son.
Who rules that Haryana party called INLD ? Om Prakash Chautala who is Devi Lal’s son.
Who rules Shiromani Akali Dal? Father and son again.
Who rules Shimoga? Yediyurappa and Raghevendra
Who rules NCP? Sharad Pawar and Supriya Sule.
WHo rules Maharashtra BJP? Gopinath Munde and his nephews and neices.
Who rules DMK? Karunanidhi and his son Stalin.
Who ruled TDP? NTR and his son in law, Naidu.
Who rules RJD? Laloo and his wife Rabri.
Who rules SP? Mulayam and his brother, soon it will be his son.
Who rules PDP? Mufti and his daughter.
Congress merely happened to be the means through which the dynastic rule got an expression. Congress was merely an outlet, not the cause.
Dynastic succession is not just in politics. It happens in all professions and businesses. From Anil Ambani to Abhiskeh Bachchan to PC Sorcar to Azim Premji’s son taking over Wipro, virtually EVERYWHERE, dynasty is all prevalent.
It is only the unthinking, unimaginative people only deride congress, conveniently forgetting that dynasty is embedded very deep in India’s DNA.
Who rules Bellary? Janardhan Reddy, Karunakar Reddy and Somshekhar Reddy.
Need any more proof that Dynasty is indispensable to Indian culture?
So, why then does Congress become the favourite whipping boy?
Think, guys, before you comment.