Congress being sacrificed to perpetuate a self-obsessed family

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The spectre of having to seat in the Opposition for 50 years is anathema to the Congress.

In his dense tome, Birth of Non-Congressism, veteran socialist Madhu Limaye described Mrs Indira Gandhi’s attitude towards those who opposed her, especially towards the socialist duo comprising himself and George Fernandes, as “vituperative personal hatred”. Mrs Gandhi’s attitude to us, wrote Limaye, was “full of venom” and at one of her public meetings in his constituency, Munger, she called him “hamare parivar ke dushman”—my family’s enemy. Limaye terms their opposition to Indira thus, “we were all opposed to her demonic effort to perpetuate her dynasty, her amoralism, and her single-minded drive for personal power.” Limaye pursued his own brand of a strange mix of politics and ideological line but he was right when he described and spoke of Indira’s obsession with her family and with its control of the Congress.

It is this same paranoia—hamare parivar ke dushman—that persists with the current crop of the Congress’s first “family” which has pushed the party into one of its worst state of internal tussle and bickering, perhaps the worst since 1969 when the Congress split. So convinced is the family that the Congress exists for it and that the party is nothing more than a family conglomerate that sees all leaders who have been its part, and those who rose because of the family and not because of their own calibre. The family feels that Congress leaders work to serve the family.

This made them ill-treat leaders like PV Narasimha Rao and not allow leaders like Pranab Mukherjee, the party’s longest-serving and most visible trouble-shooter, to rise to their full stature. This is the cavalier attitude in which the family continues to treat its leaders who have left a mark on the country’s political firmament and have successfully made a lasting contribution to the country’s public life, independent of the family. Leaders in this category have always been perceived by the family as its “dushman”, expelled or insulted.

In the Congress, the service must be to the family, not to the collective life of India, obeisance must be made to the family and not the essence of India, deference must be shown to the family and not to the eternal entity of India, the family ought to be promoted and not India’s national interest, the family must be perpetuated and not the ideology of the Congress. Though on the last point one may legitimately ask as to what is the Congress’s ideology, what does it profess to represent or stand for? What have been its ideological fundamentals which it has been able to pass on or hand over to its rank and file?

After 23 senior Congress leaders had written and argued about the need to have a “visible” and “full time leadership” within the party, about the need for a devolution of power to the state units and more, nine more leaders from the Uttar Pradesh unit of the party have written to Sonia Gandhi asking her to rise above her fixation with the family. They have argued that the party’s rank and file is suffering from depression and confusion. One of the most senior Congress leaders, among the last remaining ones from the Indira era, Ghulam Nabi Azad, in deep exasperation let his guard down and blurted out on how if there were no internal elections, if there was no democratic and consultative spirit within the party, the Congress would have to sit in the Opposition for 50 years.

The spectre of having to seat in the Opposition for 50 years is anathema to the Congress. The party and its leaders have been so used to issuing political claptraps and to the trappings of power that to think that their political exile may last for 50 years is a thought which is both crushing and debilitating. Interestingly, in one of his forceful repartees in Parliament, Amit Shah had once observed that unlike the Congress, the BJP was unafraid to sit in the Opposition since it was a party which had evolved and grown out of the Opposition.

Every leader who has spoken of the need for greater democratisation of the decision-making process within the Congress has faced marginalisation, political oblivion or exile from the party. The current lot of Congress leaders who have raised a barrage of questions within the party speaking for the need to urgently salvage it have also been marginalised and systematically removed from posts and side-lined within the party hierarchy.

The Congress and whatever is left of its political future is being sacrificed and decimated to perpetuate an inept and self-obsessed family which sees phantoms in calls for its democratisation. This descent into the abyss cannot be stalled by simply blaming Modi and the BJP. In fact as things are, one can easily conclude that the real Congress is either dying or is already dead, and therefore, let us at least once agree to say, about the Congress, ‘De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.’

(The writer is the Director of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation)

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