Monday, June 9, 2014


Congress: Party without differences
by M Pramod Kumaron 09 Jun 20141 Comment
Barely a week after the Congress party suffered its most humiliating electoral defeat ever, the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) unanimously re-elected Sonia Gandhi as its Chairperson for the fifth time since 1998. The Congress Working Committee promptly ‘rejected’ the resignations ‘offered’ by the ‘Maa-Beta’ duo and even went on to place on record their gratitude to them for their “indefatigable” election campaigns across the country. “Electoral setbacks cannot obscure their contributions and the CPP resolves to regroup, rebuild and revive under their leadership and regain the confidence and support of the people.” [1]

There was a time when there were still some leaders of stature in the Congress who could hold their ground and stand up to the dynasty. PV Narasimha Rao changed the name of the Congress Party from Congress (Indira) to Bharatiya Rashtriya Congress (Indian National Congress), signifying a possible change from dynastic autocracy to inner-party democracy.  But this possibility was scuttled forever after Narasimha Rao’s passing away.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised this issue of PVN Rao during his election rallies in Andhra Pradesh: “Narasimha Rao devoted his entire life to the Congress but this mother and son (Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi) were not happy when he became prime minister. You may not have heard them taking his name. This mother and son harassed him even after he ceased to be prime minister,” Modi said at another meeting at Karimnagar, the native district of Narasimha Rao.

“Even after Narasimha Rao’s death, they never visited his samadhi (memorial) on his birth or death anniversary. The country recognises his services but no state has his memorial,” Modi said. [2]

Even the left leaning historian with a soft corner for the Nehru dynasty, Ramachandra Guha, lamented that Narasimha Rao became the ‘great unmentionable’ in the Congress party:
“From the point of view of the present Congress leadership, Rao’s problem was not just that he was not a Nehru-Gandhi, it was also that as prime minister he did not genuflect enough to the Nehru-Gandhis... Now that the Nehru-Gandhis once more control both party and government, PV Narasimha Rao has become the great unmentionable within Congress circles. I should modify that statement – Rao can be mentioned only if it is possible to disparage him. Thus his contributions to economic growth and to a more enlightened foreign policy are ignored, while his admittedly pusillanimous attitude towards the kar sevaks in Ayodhya is foregrounded ... To forget his achievements, but to remember his mistakes, is a product of cold and deliberate calculation.” [3]

Sonia Gandhi has never let go of an opportunity to undermine PVN Rao’s legacy and deny or deride his contribution in ushering in the era of economic reforms. In December 2009, during the foundation stone-laying function of the Congress headquarters in Delhi to mark 125 years of the party’s formation, Sonia Gandhi appreciated the contributions of all Congress Prime Ministers including Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, except PVN Rao:
“Rajiv did not stay with us to see his dreams being realised but we can see his stamp in the party manifesto for 1991 elections. That became the basis for economic policies for the next five years. These policies gave a new direction and strength to our economy and our society,” she said. [4]

In the post Narasimha Rao era, Sonia Gandhi ensured that all dissenting voices in the Congress are silenced or sidelined. The disgraceful and unethical manner in which Sonia Gandhi usurped the post of the President of the Congress Party by stripping Sitaram Kesri of his post is an unforgettable low in the minds of those who witnessed the Congress in the 1990s.

Harish Khare, who was a media advisor to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a close aide of Sitaram Kesri commented about the undemocratic transition in the Congress in his obituary to Sitaram Kesri:
“On March 14, 1998 the Congress Working Committee took the unprecedented and unconstitutional step of stripping an elected president of his post. The constitutional coup was hailed widely as restoring the party’s leadership back to the site of its only natural entitlement - the Nehru-Gandhi family. When the historians get to chronicle the import of that eventful day, most of the honourable men of the Congress would be shown to have acted way less than honourably; even those who owned their rehabilitation and place in the CWC to the old man had no qualms in abandoning him. The transition that day cast the Congress (I) once again in the dynastic mould, and the consequences are visible...

“On May 20, 1999 Kesri was demonstratively roughed up by the Congress goons at the party headquarters. That planned roughing up was administered to the old man just as the Congress Working Committee members were arriving at 24, Akbar Road to discuss and expel the Sharad Pawar-PA Sangma-Tariq Anwar trio for daring to “challenge” Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Someone had decided that Kesri - as also others - was among the “suspects”, lacking in hundred per cent loyalty to the leadership. That evening, the country silently watched the physical humiliation of Kesri and drew its own conclusions about the Congress and its leadership; there was a disagreeable note to that evening of May 20, and put in place rough attitudes, which inhibit wholesomeness in decision-making...

“Rajesh Pilot and Sitaram Kesri are dead, and Mr. Sharad Pawar has been expelled. There is an altogether a new Congress, and Kesri’s departure ... only emphasises that newness and all its implications.” [5]

Conspiracy, secrecy, slavish obedience to the dynasty and intolerance towards all dissidents characterizes the Congress leadership today. No wonder that there is no difference of opinion whatsoever within the Congress party as far as the leadership abilities of the dynasty is concerned, despite its worst electoral defeat. Thus, the Congress can now proudly proclaim that it is a party without differences, in contrast to the BJP – the party with a difference, where even a ‘chai bechne wala’ can become Prime Minister!


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