130 years of the Indian National Congress (1885-2015)

Congresshistory Sat, 12 Sep 2015

130 years of the Indian National Congress (1885-2015)

Indian National Congress (as Late Prof. Bipan Chandra claimed) was not a party. It was the movement. A movement which accommodated and nurtured a range of ideas, ideologues and individual. It worked out a consensus along all the contradictory forces emerge as the umbrella organisation. Under its aegis, India’s struggle for independence sustained, strengthened and succeeded. It continued to operate and function with the goals of independence in the post-independent India. The ideas of a sovereign government with anti-imperialist stance. Secular and socialist democracy and a pro-poor orientation always occupied the centre of the Congress politics. 

From the Nehruvian Congress in early 1950 to Indira years and from a new wave of globalisation in Rajiv years to a sustained inclusive development today. Congress party has grown up with the same ideas. We can commence with the contributions of Allan Octavian Hume, and then move ahead as the developing history of the Indian National Congress. 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,1 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.2 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.”3 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.4 The idea of safety-valve was also approved by Lord Dufferin, although he made certain modifications in the original proposal of Mr. Hume with a condition that his name should not be divulged, so long he remained in India. He advised Hume that such an organization should not be in the nature of social assemblage but must hammer out question related to administration and should convey What country and the people wanted by way of redress or reform. In other words, Lord Dufferin wanted the Congress to act as a forum of India public opinion, as there existed no opposition party in India.5 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, which assimilated modern western democratic culture and comprehended the complex problems of the incipient Indian Nation, were the real makers 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. Thereafter, came the most powerful and effective personality on the Indian Political horizon Mohan das Karamchand Gandhi. It was due to his efforts that India became a free nation from the yoke of British Imperialism.7 The arms and ammunitions of Mahatma Gandhi in this struggle for Indian Independence were ‘Satya and Ahimsa’. He believed in Swadashi movement known as “Azadi by Khadi”.8 During the Gandhian era many popular leaders became his trusted followers. Motilal Nehru, Srdar 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 ws 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”.9 Jawaharlal Nehru was responsible for the special economics 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 road consensus in the Congres Parliamentary Party to go give a chance to Lal Bahadur Shastri, to become the Prime Minister of India.10 He became the Prime Minister on June 2, 1964. An 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 and Rajasthan. 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”13. She conducted a India’s first nuclear test in 1974. Finally, she crushed militancy in the Punjab by sending troops in the Golden temple of Amritsar.14 She was also the patriarch of green revelation. 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. Kumar 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 ws 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 subcontinent. 15 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.16 He also initiated “The Jawahar Rojgar Yojna”, 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.

17 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 lock Sabha were ordered in May 1991.18 While delivering his lecture at Sriperubudur in Tamilnadu to campaign for congress candidate on may 21th 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was killed by LTTE terrorists.25 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.19 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 Deve Gowda and I.K Gujral proved unstable. 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.20 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 present day), 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 2005.21 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. Infact 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. 22 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%23 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 helth professionals (ASHAS). By December 2008, 6.48 Lakhs ASHAS had been selected and Rogi Kalyan Samitis had been established in 565 district hospitals.24 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 in one of its best achievements at its credit. Some 12,60,000 schools with 113,600,000 students are getting their Mid-Day Meal regularly due to this Act.32 The greatest achievement of the U.P.A. II government in recent times on the implementation of Food Security Act 2013. The bill of Food Security was passed by the Lok Sabha on 26-08-2013, passed by the Rajya Sabha on 02-09-2013 and assented by the President of India on 12-09-2013. 33 The salient features of this Act are mentioned below :- The chief aim of this Act is to see that no body dies of starvation. Therefore, the Act provides that 67% of the Indian Population shall get good grains on very Low price.34 One family shall get 35 kg of grains in a month under this scheme. This Act also Provides Nutritional Support to pregnant women and lactating mother. 

There is also provision for prevention and management of child malnutrition, implementation of schemes for realization of entitlements, Right to receive food security allowance in certain cases, Coverage of population and right of State Governments to prepare guidelines and to identify priority households. This Act also says that the “the state government shall place list of the identified eligible households in the public domain and display in prominently. In fact, this Act is the brain-child of Smt. Sonia Gandhi who wanted that nobody in India should die of starvation. India is first county of the world that has implemented this type of Act to save the poor from dying of starvation. The Indian National Congress believes in a corruption free society. Therefore, from its very birth it has been opposing the corrupt practise in any field of the society. The recent example of this principle is seen in the firm determination of Shri Rahul Gandhi, the vice President of the Indian National Congress, when he strongly opposed the government move to bring an ordinance to save the leaders who have been sentenced by the court for more than two years. 

The government has no option but to retreat from this move. Hence, it is clear that Rahul Gandhi a young and dynamic leader of the Congress Party wants to keep the image of the Congress Party and the government as an instrument to crush the corrupt practices in India. 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 came in 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 antifarmer 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 pro-poor orientation cannot be compromised in this country till Congress remains alive. Soon, after coming in power, BJP commenced showing its true communal and fascist character. The murder of rationalist and authors by Hindu fundamentalists was not criticised by the Prime Minister in strong words. 

The repeated repulsive statement made by cabinet ministers was equally disturbing. Congress party took the lead in this all India protest over intolerance and made the protests of authors and intellectuals more resounding. The trust of people in the forces of secularism and tolerance was firmly established with a thumping victory of the grand alliance in Bihar Assembly elections. The people of Bihar rejected the communal partisan politics and elected the secular parties with development agenda. This crucial development affirmed that the following of the congress party and its politics is gaining weight again. In this victory right direction and efforts made by Vice President of Congress-Rahul Gandhi and Bihar Congress President Dr. Ashok Chaudhry and also local Congress workers contributed alot. Hopefully, in 2019 Indian Naional Congress will bounce back to save the pride of Indian nation and serve the common people of India.