Contributions of the congress party difficult to be ignored
Congress Sandesh has started a new series about the achievements of the Congress Party in building the nation – From the desk of Editor.
In the first article of this series, it was explained how the imperialist government made India decayed and deprived in every aspect. It also resulted in disintegration of social-fabric of our country. India got freedom on 15th August, 1947. But with independence, there came numerous serious problems. It was pertinent to find solutions of these problems before taking our country on the path of progress. India had already been divided and on the frontiers of newly constituted India and Pakistan, lakhs of people were migrating. Several parts of the country were paralysed by communal riots. Apart from these, India faced many problems like annexation of Princely States; rehabilitation of 60 lakhs people who came here from Pakistan; to control communal riots; regional and administrative unification. Besides political stability and maintenance of law and order, to strengthen administrative structure were other important tasks. The first Prime Minister of independent India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the unanimous leader of Indian people and he had astonishing foresightedness.
He was of the opinion that in order to take India on the path of progress these problems must be solved first. He said in 1947,”First thing, the first and foremost, the very first thing is related with India’s security and stability. The country was being led by the Congress Party which had a long list of capable leaders. These leaders observed that there were some important tasks like making of the constitution; democracy based on people’s representation; political system based on citizen’s liberty; formation of responsible state governments based upon people’s participation through electoral representation; labourreforms through eradication of semi-feudal agri-system. Before the newly-constituted independent government, there were several responsibilities as well as aims and targets like to stimulate national integrity; to make the nation strong; to make a blueprint for speedy economic development; to eradicate exploitations, injustices and inequalities and to formulate such foreign-policy which can protect the country as a sovereign state and to propagate the message of peace in a bipolar world which was threatened by the Cold War. The solutions for these problems and challenges had to be found within the framework of values developed during the freedom struggle and for this there was also a need of national consensus. Getting independence was undoubtedly a great achievement but the completion of these tasks and responsibilities may take years or even decades.
The countrymen and the Congress Party under the leadership of Pandit Nehru devoted themselves with optimistic approach, faith in country’s future and immense enthusiasm in order to eliminate immediate and long-term problems and challenges. The people belonging to Nehru- Age consider themselves fortunate enough even today. Once Pandit Nehru himself expressed such sentiment during his tenure, “ I am always of the opinion that in the long history of India, people living in this age are fortunate enough. I firmly believe that in this opaque world there is nothing more adventurous and exciting than to work in India”. When the process of nation-building was started by the Congress Party, there were several momentous problems before it but at the same time it was gifted with highly capable and devoted leaders with great ideals. Pandit Nehru was a great leader in every aspect but to support him there was a number of leaders who had played memorable roles in the freedom-struggle. His deputy Sardaar Patel was at home in administrative jobs and was a man of firm belief. There were other leaders also like a learned man like Abul Kalaam, a man of letters like Dr. Rajendra Prasad and a man of astonishing talent like C.
Rajagopalachari. Apart from this, some regional leaders like G. B. Pant in UP, B.C. Roy in West Bengal and B. G. Kher and Morarji Desai in Bombay were popular, capable and idealistic. They were unanimous leaders of their respective regions and were gifted with great will-power and foresightedness. They were efficient enough to run the modern and democratic administration. They had experience of decades of organizing programmes and agitations, building a political party and participating in state assemblies. They were very deft in making unanimous decisions. The Congress leaders had led the freedom-struggle and it provided them the opportunity to bring different region’s ideologies and social segments into a joint political campaign. Almost all the Congress leaders were of the opinion that accelerated economic growth and social changes were the need of the hour. They shared the vision of independent India. They were fully devoted to the democratization of society and politics. They totally agreed to the fundamental values that took a shape during freedom-struggle. On the basis of these values, India had to be built. The whole world knows the devotion of Pandit Nehru to these values and ideals.
But other Congress leaders were also as much devoted to democracy, liberty, secularism, indigenous economic development, social reforms and the policies regarding eradication of poverty. After 1947, a welcome change in the interest of India came to the fore as the Congress Party with immense support of people and firm belief in democratic values turned into a pan Indian political party. The Congress leaders were well aware of the fact that there was a need of such government which could represent different classes of society and ideologies and could be capable of implementing a common programme for economic development of the country. When the socialists and communists decided to be a part of the opposition, the Congress leadership inducted several prominent and respectable non-Congress leaders into the government. Though the Congress enjoyed a vast majority in the Constituent Assembly and there was no serious threat of being challenged of their claim to form or to run the government. Because of this, the Congress government turned into a national government. Unification of the country was a major challenge before the first government of independent India. Before independence, India’s 40 per cent area was in the possession of princely states. The number of such states was 56. Pandit Nehru handed over this responsibility to Sardaar Vallabhbhai Patel.
With a strategy of pressure and temptation, he very deftly annexed more than hundreds of small estates. In this way, under the leadership of the Congress Party, the process of unification was completed and the whole became one administrative unit. In 1947, India was burning under the flames of communal riots. These riots started just after partition and within few months’ lakhs of people were killed and properties worth crores of rupees were either destroyed or looted. So at the very start, the government as well as Indian people had to face such serious problems. More dangerous was the thing that communal sentiment might not find a permanent place in our country. But Indian nationalism overcame this difficult situation. By and large, Indian people and the national leadership didn’t abandon the principles of secularism. Pandit Nehru and the Congress succeeded in taking control of the situation. In Delhi, law and order was restored by issuing shoot-at-sight order to communal rioters indulging in loot, arson and murder. The police and the army successfully took the control of the situation. The success of controlling riots after partition is unparalleled and the credit certainly goes to Pandit Nehru and the Congress leadership. The Congress government succeeded in safeguarding minorities also. So at last, 4.5 crores of Muslims decided to stay in India. Slowly and steadily Indian people maintained a distance from communal violence.
In 1950, our constitution was adopted and a secular state and society was founded. Having solved immediate problems after getting independence, the Congress leadership took strong measures to strengthen democratic values in the country. Renowned thinkers of that age belonging to developed countries were of the opinion that democracy as a form of governance can’t be successful in an illiterate and undeveloped country which is divided by castes and religions. But Pandit Nehru and the Congress initiated the process of the making of the constitution and finally it was implemented on 26th January, 1950. According to the principles of state policy, there will be an election commission and a chief election commissioner will head it. Giving a befitting reply to all the social and political thinkers of the world, the first general elections was held in 1951-52 and in this way democracy achieved a new milestone in India. The whole election process was completed in 4 months and it was termed as the biggest electoral process of the world. The most significant fact of this election was Pandit Nehru’s campaign. He travelled a distance of 40,000 KMs and addressed about 3.5 crores voters.
He made communalism as an important issue of his campaign. He declared that at this point of time, the biggest fight is between secularism and communal forces since communal forces pose the most serious threat to India’s integrity. The first general elections was also significant in the sense that people were very enthusiastic regarding the new political system. The common man was well aware that his vote was very precious. High percentage of voting was recorded from both urban and rural areas and schedule castes and schedule tribes also participated in large numbers. Women’s participation in the electoral process was another achievement. About 40 per cent used their electoral rights. The first general elections was completed free and fair and the whole world admired it. Dr. Rajendra Prasad as President and Dr. S Radhakrishnan as Vice-President were elected and the whole election process was successfully completed. In this way, Pandit Nehru’s and the Congress’ faith in democracy was proved correct. The country marched on the path of communal harmony and democracy.
Pandit Nehru also favoured the decentralization of power as enshrined in our constitution. After the first general elections, the Congress led government followed the provisions of federalism. Pandit Nehru wanted to make state governments stronger. He never thrust his decisions upon states and never tried to interfere in their policy-matters. He gave Pradesh Congress committees a free hand to elect their leaders. At times, he gave an advice, direction or request but he always did so within his constitutions limits. Pandit Nehru and the Congress Party always considered and respected Parliament as the supreme body. Parliament became a place for expressing people’s concerns and opinions. Pandit Nehru always remained present during the Question-Hour. Because of the approach and behavior of the Congress leaders towards Parliament, the opposition too played its constructive role. Parliamentary discussions touched a new high and thus it became the supreme body. Though the Congress Party was in a dominating role, the role of the opposition also became prominent.
Pandit Nehru himself used to provide space and respect to the opposition and always remained sensitive to criticisms of the opposition. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress leadership provided human rights a strong foundation. Despite the fact that the press used to criticize the government vehemently, freedom of press was ensured. The freedom of the judiciary was also ensured so that it can function without being partial.
On the whole, it can be said that under the leadership of Pandit Nehru, the Congress Party and its leaders founded such a democratic system without which social, economic and defence development can’t be imagined. India is known all over the world for these democratic values.