THE GlORIOus TRADITIONs OF INDIAN NATIONAl CONGREss
As the people of this country are being harassed today by making them stand in long queues to withdraw their own money, we’re living in the times of confusion crisis. This crisis was engineered by the present government with an announcement by Prime Minister himself. Around 85% of the share of the currency in circulation was declared as illegal tender. Amartya Sen described this unprecedented authoritarianism as, “It (demonetisation) undermines notes, it undermines bank accounts, and it undermines the entire economy of trust. This is the sense in which it is despotic.”1. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Shri Manmohan Singh described the move of demonetisation as “legalised plunder” and “organised loot”. We were told by the Prime Minister that such a move was taken by the government to put a check and curb the black economy, and tackle the use of it in terrorism and extremism. However within a month, the whole narrative seems to have shifted in the other direction. Now the emphasis is on the cashless economy, or less cash economy.
This despotic move in a sense, made a huge disruption in the organic development of the Indian economy which was taking shape after the economic reforms of 1991. Many experts believe that economy was moving towards the goal of wiping out the black money and electronic transactions organically. However, government’s lesser though about policy delivered a performance fiasco. The long queues outside the banks and ATMs, changing policy of Reserve Bank of India towards the exchange and transaction many times, and people’s suffering overall is rooted in this failure. More than 50 people died due to this rush and suffering. Government has to take up responsibility for this. The demonetisation is one of the prime examples of this government’s and their party’s approach towards inclusive principles of democracy.
The roots of Indian democracy and the institutions of the state go back to the struggles of Indian freedom struggle. Except in a few minor instances, the BJP and her parent and other affiliated organisations didn’t participate at all in the freedom movement. And even one separates BJP from Hindu Mahasabha, then there
is no contribution whatsoever. This implicates a question. How can then BJP and the present government really know that democracy functions in the spirit of dialogue and discussion? They never knew that how the movement structures a party and how a political party in a diverse country like India must be woven around people across the classes and identities. The democratic structure of Indian National Congress is the legacy of the freedom struggle movement, and the exclusionary politics of the BJP is due to the absence of these ethics.
The rising intolerance against the minorities, continuous attacks on the autonomy and functioning of the universities, attack on media’s freedom as the recently proposed ban on NDTV showed, rising communalisation in the majoritarian community, and many other recent developments are indicative of the crisis we’re moving towards. The government of the day doesn’t seem concerned about these unhealthy practises; rather many forces inside it are supporting them. The vulgar display of patriotism and shutting down any dissent and opposition as anti-nationalist is certainly not how the “idea of India” was shaped. We need to be very alert now and more concerned since conditions can only worsen further if not checked now.
A larger opposition force can only be Indian National Congress since it was woven and structured around the narrative of nationalism. The political battle in this country can only be over the conception of nationalism when it comes countrywide. In the last two and a half years, we’ve witnessed that how BJP and her allies idealise a notion of nationalism which is exclusionary, anti-minority, majoritarian, anti-opposition and irresponsible towards any dissent and disagreement. India as a modern nation-state was conceived if at any principles, they were and still are opposite to BJP’s concept of nationalism. Congress again needs to lead from the front as it has always done. An outline of the history of this party which was a movement is essential here.
Early years: Before Independence
With beginning of British rule in India, a happy and rich India started becoming an unhappy and pauper India. Her economic condition deteriorated day by day until it became quite alarming. In fact, the economic condition of India was very miserable when the Indian National Congress was born in 1885. A.O. Hume, to whom the real credit for its birth goes, had recorded before its birth when he was a member of Indian Civil Service, that there was economic discontent in India and the government was out of touch with the people,2 and India under the vice-reality of Lord. Lytton, was on the verge of revolutionary out-break due to the desperate attitude of the people.3 He had also recorded that the Indians “were convinced that they would starve and starve and die, that they would do something ... They were going to do something and stand by each other, and that “something” means violence.”4 The Deccan riots bore testimony to Hume’s warning when the riots pressed by, enhanced assessment on the one hand, and the demands of the money-lenders on the other, rose against the latter, maltreated their persons, deprived them of their property and destroyed their bonds and books of account that evidenced their indebtedness.
The Congress, although initiated by liberal Englishmen like Hume, Wedderburn and Henry Cotton, attracted a large number of Indians belonging to middle class and particularly that of the intelligentsia. This intelligentsia was the product of western education and was quite at home with the contemporary ideologies of Europe.6 In fact the progressive intelligentsia, was the real maker of modern India. Therefore. the most important thing to note is that in all its phases of development, the nationalist movement was led by the intelligentsia. During the liberal phase (1885-1905), the Congress was led by such outstanding liberal intellectuals as Dadabhai Naoroji, W.C Banerjee, D.E. Wacha, M.G. Ranade, R.C Dutt, R.N Mudholkar, Pheroze shah Mehta, G.K Gokhale, K.T. Telang, S.N. Bannerjee and many others. In the next militaint phase (1905-1919), the Congress was led by such great and sacrificing leaders as B.G. Tilak, B.C. Pal, Lala
Lajpat Rai and a lot of many others. These leaders, whether belonging to liberal school (known as moderates) or belonging to militant school (known as extremists) were well versed in economic, political and social ideologies of the contemporary Europe and realities of India.
Thereafter, came the most powerful and effective personality on the Indian Political horizon Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.7 It was due to his efforts that India became a free nation from the yoke of British Imperialism. The arms and ammunitions of Mahatma Gandhi in this struggle for Indian Independence were ‘Satya and Ahimsa’. He believed in Swadeshi movement known as “Azadi by Khadi”.
During the Gandhian era many popular leaders became his trusted followers. Motilal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Sarojni Naidu, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, J.B Kripalani, Abul Klam Azad, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, and Raj Gopalchari were some of the them. But most reliable disciple of Mahatma Gandhi was Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. On August 15, 1947 he became the first Prime Minister of independent India. First of all, he defused the explosive situation created by Hindu-Muslim riots on the call of Jinnah’s “Direct Action”.
Jawaharlal Nehru was responsible for the special economic reforms policy vehicle the Planning Commission of India. He also started five year plans. He also believed in the uplift of heavy and cottage industries. He was the creator of the Non-aligned Policy because when India achieved freedom in 1947, the world was divided in to two groups, the capitalist group led by United States of America and the communist group led by the USSR. He believed in the Principles of the U.N.O and wanted to defuse the tensions of the world through this and wanted to defuse the tensions of the world through this organisation. After the demise of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, there was a loud consensus in the Congress Parliamentary Party to go give a chance to Lal Bahadur Shastri, to become the Prime Minister of India.
Most experienced Minister in Nehru’s cabinet, Shastri was the first choice of the party to resolve intra party conflicts.11 He wanted to strengthen India’s Military and farmer’s miserable condition. So he gave a good slogan “Jai Jawan-Jai kisan”. He defeated Pakistan in autumn of 1965 when Pakistan launched Military action to take over certain border areas in Kashmir, Gujarat.
The next most powerful pillar of Indian Government and Indian national Congress was Smt. Indira Gandhi. Nehru was idealistic and visionary but Indira Gandhi was more decisive and pragmatic. When she became the Prime minister of India, she made Pakistan a very weak Country by creating Bangladesh in the 1971 war against Pakistan.12 She improved India’s relation with Soviet Union by signing a treaty with her in 1971. She gave a good slogan to wipe out poverty of India known as “Garibi Hatao”. She conducted India’s first nuclear test in 1974. Finally, she crushed militancy in the Punjab by sending troops in the Golden temple of Amritsar.13 She was also the patriarch of green revolution. In fact, she was the most powerful Prime minister of India since independence.
After Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi the eldest son of Smt. Indira Gandhi became the 6th Prime Minister of India. He had a very clean image and hence was known as “Mr. Clean” in National and International Politics. He modernised the Indian defense forces and encouraged many youngsters to join Politics like Rajesh Pilot, R. Kumara Mangalam and Madhava Rao Sindhia. He gave good impetus to Indian industries and village farming. He gave good challenge to terrorism and fissiparous tendencies. His vision for the 21st century India was a very strong dream for the uplift of our motherland. His foreign policy was also up to the mark and wanted to have India’s good relations with all other countries of the world. He signed a treaty with the Lankan Government on July 27th 1987 to establish peace and normalcy in the sub-continent
The greatest contribution of Shri Rajiv Gandhi to India and his Congress Party was his “vision for the 21st century”. It was his dream to strengthen the Panchayati Raj institutions and he wanted to give 30% reservation to women and to bring it in to practice, he wanted to amend the Indian constitution for this purpose but failed, because he did not get the support of the opposition parties.15 He also initiated “The Jawahar Rojgar Yojana”, to provide employment to at least one member of every poor family in a village for 50 100 days in a year. He wanted to, radicalize political, social and economic features of India in 21st century. He wanted to give the opportunity to youngsters in every field of the Indian society. He reduced the voting age of a citizen from 21 year to 18 years.
Rajiv Gandhi repeatedly reminded the country of the necessity of preparing for the 21st century and took some dramatic steps in that direction. He spearheaded India’s computerization programme. Besides, stressing the use of modern technology Rajiv Gandhi initiated more for removing controls over industries and demystifying the budgetary process. During his tenure from 1984-1989, the economic growth rate was 5.5% breaking the barrier of the 3 to 3.5% growth rate which was the general feature of the Indian economy.16 In fact the intention of Rajiv Gandhi to make India a super power is certainly appreciable.
The 1989 election went against the Congress Party because of different reasons, but the Non Congress Governments of V.P Singh and Chandra Shekher could not stay for long. Hence, one again elections to the Lok Sabha were ordered in May 1991.17 While delivering his lecture at Sriperumbudur in Tamilnadu to campaign for congress candidate on May 21th 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE terrorists.18 It is clear to us that Rajiv Gandhi was born in Congress environment, worked for strengthening the Congress and died for the revival of Congress.
Due to untiring effort of Rajiv Gandhi and his sacrifice for the Congress, P.V Narasimha Rao of the Indian National Congress became the 9th Prime Minister of India, The Congress had outside support by J.M.M. and the independents Narasimha Rao introduced highest economic growth rate in the Indian history. In 1996 election, the Congress faced electoral defeat but all the three succeeding governments the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the government of H.D Devegowda and I.K Gujral proved unstable.
Sonia Gandhi years: Storyline for the UPa
Once again, a general election was ordered in 1998. This time B.J.P. came to power with 24 coalition parties and the Congress was out of power for full six years. But in the parliamentary elections of 2004 the Congress led U.P.A. was successful in regaining the power. This was all due to the untiring efforts of Smt. Sonia Gandhi, the President of Indian National Congress.
Now Smt. Sonia Gandhi had a good chance to become the Prime Minister of India but she politely refused the offer and gave this post to Dr. Manmohan Singh, a well known economist of India. However Smt. Sonia Gandhi became the chairperson the United Progressive Alliance. During the period of Dr. Manmohan Singh and Smt. Sonia Gandhi 2004 to 2014, the Congress government have made the following historical achievements in different fields of the Indian Society.
Then a National advisory Council was brought in to existence with Smt. Sonia Gandhi at the head and representatives of civil society groups as its members to help the government in policy formulation. The right to information Act (R.T.I) was enacted by the UPA I government of India in October 2005. Mainly at the initiative of the NAC with the strong support of Smt. Sonia Gandhi. This Act is applied to all States and Union Territories of India, except the state of Jammu & Kashmir. This act is certainly regarded as one of the most Progressive Act in the history of the world. In fact after the right to vote, the RTI is the most timely and important step which has led to empowering legislations, strengthening the democratic Pattern of India and ensuring accountability.
The next historical achievement of the UPA government is the implementation of an act known as NREGA (Now MNREGA). This act was enacted on 10/09/2005 after the assent of the president. This Act Provides rural employment guarantee. It has created the largest social security net in the world. By December 2008, more them nine crore people have been provided job of which women formed 48.77% scheduled castes formed 30.95% and Scheduled Tribes accounted for 24.08%.
This U.P.A government has also started a new scheme to improve the health of rural India. It is known as National Rural Health Mission of 2005. Its chief responsibility is to improve the quality and accessibility of primary health care in the villages to keep the rural people healthy and strong. Its chief work is to train the accredited social health professionals (ASHAS). By December 2008, 6.48 Lakhs ASHAS had been selected and Rogi Kalyan Samitis had been established in 565 district hospitals. Not only the NREGA (Now MNREGA), RTI and the rural health scheme but, the U.P.A government has many other achievements at its credit. The Mid Day meal in schools is one of its best achievements at its credit. The greatest achievement of the U.P.A. II government in recent times on the implementation of Food Security Act 2013
Ten years of anti-incumbency and an additive propaganda management by BJP led to an electoral defeat of INC in May 2014. However, BJP Government which had come into power on the promises of “Achhe Din” showed its true colours soon. The hassle over Land Reform Amendment and attempt to clear the passage through Ordinance exposed BJP’s pro-corporate and anti-farmer ideology. Our leaders especially Rahul Gandhi gave a tough fight to the fascist ways of this government and forced them to retreat. This event again demonstrated that propoor orientation cannot be compromised in this country till Congress remains alive.
But as we witness the grave situation today, the pro-corporate and anti-poor idea has taken a new leap forward with the demonetisation. Perhaps the first time in the history of this country a Prime Minister’s picture was seen on the advertisement of a private company- Paytm endorsing its use. Almost all the experts who uniformly criticised the move were ridiculed as partisan and biased. This in the long run is going to be very detrimental to the ethos and tradition of our democracy for which Congress Party and her great leaders fought, struggled and gave life. Congress Party along with other parties who stand for the real and inclusive nationalism must come forward strongly than ever before to stand against the BJP’s exclusionary and majoritarian agenda. Even in 2004, when the same NDA’s “Shinning India” campaign was spreading lies of the development, Smt. Sonia Gandhi in her mass campaign led the UPA to a grand success. Now the young India must rally behind the Congress Vice President Shri Rahul Gandhi and other anti-BJP parties to unite and overcome the threats which this government is posing for our democracy.
1. The Hindu, National News, Amartya Sen 30th November, 2016
2. Sunil Khilnani, “The Idea of India”, Penguin Books, New Delhi,1997
3. Wedderburn, William, Allan Octavian: Father of the IndianNational Congress, (London: 1913), p.62.
4. Ibid p. 79
5. Ibid p. 81-82
6. Mudholkiar, R.N., The Economics Condition of the People in India,
7. Banerjee, W.C, Indian politics Madras. 1998 p-39
8. Kohn, Hans, A History of Nationalism in the East,(London:1929).p-118
9. The Indian Nation, Patna August 16, 1947.
10. Sinha, P.G.N. Socialistic trends in the Indian National Congress,1919 to 1947, Submitted in M.U in 1980 P- 122
11. W.W.W maps of India.com, google.co.in
12. Mukherjee, Parnab, Congress and the Making of The IndianNation, Academic foundation New Delhi Vol-II p-103
13. The Times Of India, New Delhi June 3, 1964
14. The Indian Nation, Patna September 24, 1965
15. The Times Of India, New Delhi, December 16, 1971
16. Global World, Traport.com, Google.com.in
17. The Times of India, New Delhi July 28, 1987
18. Singh, Dr. Shashi Kumar, Rajiv Gandhi: Ekkiswin Sadi kiParikalpna Siddharth International Prakashan, Ara
19. Mukharjee Pranav, Congress And The Making of The Indian Nation Academic foundation, New Delhi, p. 130. Writer is an Independent Columnist, P. G. Department of History, Jain College, Ara, Bihar Delegate, Bihar Pradesh Congress committee.