Indian National Congress


Contrary to popular belief, the Indian National Congress was not founded to organize Indian independence struggle, far from it, the Congress was given birth to by the Theosophical society movement with the express objective of getting a share in the government for educated Indians. The radicalization of the Congress and its involvement with the mass movements for India’s freedom struggle came much later at the beginning of the 20th century due to undying efforts of the great Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the trio of Lal-Bal-Pal. So the Congress party was flawed at the very foundation by its inherent desire for power and pelf. At the very best, Congress party was designed in its core DNA as only a political alternative for governing India and not as a tool to achieve any real socio-political change. It was the Mahatma who gave the socio-cultural dimension to the Congress and tried to become the “change” that India deserved.

An urban legend has been woven around the Congress for almost a hundred years now as the party responsible for the Indian freedom struggle. This myth combined with blatant populism has transformed the Congress into a “natural party of governance” in independent India. But more than a 125 years later and after relentlessly looting mother India for close to 60 years, Congress is staring at the gates of the graveyard from the ICU that it has been admitted to.

Carcinoma in situ (up to 1947)

To be sure, the present state of health of the Congress is not an overnight phenomenon; in fact, cancer had set in much earlier in the era of pre-independent India. When the core DNA itself is flawed, what more can be expected? In the first decade of the 20th century, when real leaders of the unwashed masses started to emerge – the likes of Lal-Bal-Pal, Aurobindo Ghosh, Madan Mohan Malviya et al – they were mercilessly side-lined as “Hindu nationalists” and the Congress party was turned into an exclusive club of the feudal elite socialists. Everybody in the Congress then was somebody with a famous last name, right from J.L. Nehru downwards to the state satraps. For all his flaws, the one immortal contribution that Gopal Krishna Gokhale made to the Congress party and to the nation was in the form of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The Mahatma’s entry into the conundrum of elitist politics rescued Congress from being a B-team of the British imperialists and gave it the much needed gravitas in the socio-political landscape of India.

The actual carcinogenic seeds were sown in 1936-37 into the Congress body politic, unwittingly, by the Mahatma himself. It was the golden jubilee session of the Congress at Faizpur in December 1936, the first of its kind to be held in a village, where the Mahatma made his first big blunder. In fact this idea of bringing more than one lakh party office-bearers to a village was a Gandhi brainchild that was vehemently opposed by the elite socialist Nehru. In this session, much to the huge frustration of all Congressmen, Gandhi proposed a re-election of the socialist Nehru as the president of the party, while an overwhelming majority was in favour of the practical Patel. Eventually, Sardar Patel was ‘persuaded’ to withdraw from the contest and Nehru rode on a magnificent chariot pulled by 6 pairs of bullocks, while the wheels of time were set in motion for a carcinogenic infiltration of India’s body politic.

It did not take long for the first symptoms to set in after Nehru’s ascendancy in Faizpur. When the Congress party won a majority of the provinces in the 1937 elections, the heckling for power began in right earnest. Let us not be fooled by history textbooks of an idealistic Congress party toiling for India’s freedom, for the truth was far from it. After the 1937 elections every Congressman worth his salt was jostling for ministerial berths and for power and pelf, preceding this was a harping for tickets to contest elections – in fact the first case of “disciplinary” action against a Congressman for fighting an election as a rebel candidate was recorded in the 1937 elections and the distinction goes to Guru Raghubar Dayal of Kanpur, while the “official” Congress candidate was a Dr Jawaharlal (a namesake of India’s first PM). Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the harbinger of this ‘Congress Culture‘ as the president of the party, much to the chagrin of the disciplinarian Patel.

To be fair, by 1947, Doctor Mohandas Gandhi had diagnosed the disease of a dynastic-socialist-corrupt Congress and had even suggested a treatment – the transformation of the party into a social organization along the lines of a Seva Dal to proscribe electoral ambitions of Congressmen. But then, Gandhi’s love for a handsomely erudite Nehru overrode even his doctoral healing ability and once again in a moment of weakness he picked Panditji as the first Prime Minister of India, despite, overwhelming support for Sardar Patel. Thus carcinoma in situ had set in.

Stage 1: Localized Cancer (1947-1975)

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s love for secular-socialism was matched only by his immense hatred for Hinduism. Once, in the Lucknow session of the Congress when a group of ‘Hindu’ Congressmen of Benares raised some important issues about Muslim appeasement, Nehru in a fit of temper shouted back, “Go to hell, you Benares people!” – That was vintage Nehru at his vitriolic best. In the Nehruvian world of ultra-secularism, “communal forces” almost always meant “Hindu Nationalists” and was never equated with either the Muslim league or peasants party et al. This inherent Nehruvian Hindu hatred is difficult to comprehend, but probably it was his elitist overreaction to an orthodox Hindu society steeped in superstitious religious belief systems. Nehru did not possess either the spiritual depth of the Mahatma or the practical courage of the Sardar.

Nehru conveniently used the tool of secularism to purge all opposition to him within the party, especially after the untimely death of both Gandhi & Patel. Thus top notch leaders like Morarji Desai and JP, or for that matter even a Lal Bahadur Shastri was side-lined and the Congress party was increasingly being moulded in the Nehruvian mirror image. Another inherent weakness of the first prime minister of India was his absolute love for his daughter, which was primarily responsible for the initial spread of carcinogenic cells within the party. His love for his daughter was so overwhelming that during the latter part of his prime-ministership every decision he took was consciously or subconsciously aimed at furthering the political carrier of Indira. The Kamraj plan was one such instance when the ‘democratic’ Nehru sacrificed almost his entire top half of the cabinet to pave the future path for his daughter. The other was asking U.N. Dhebar, the outgoing Congress president, to nominate Mrs Gandhi as the new party president in 1959.

Indira, after taking over the reins of the party and the country proved to be an even more cynical leader in her politics, but what really set her apart from her ‘illustrious’ father was her dictatorial style of functioning. She simply cleansed the party of every leader of importance and even split the party to form an Indira Congress that became her own personal property. Like everything else her socialism was also of the extreme kind, thus nationalising almost the entire economy and creating the most corrupt license-permit raj that would not only destroy the core entrepreneurial spirit of India but also infiltrate Congress politics with such deep-rooted cancer of corruption that the eventual death of Congress was now an assured reality.

Then Mrs Gandhi crossed the ‘Rubicon’ on June 25th 1975 by imposing ’emergency’ and suspending the Indian constitution. Among reasons she gave for justification of emergency were;

“In the name of democracy it has been sought to negate the very functioning of democracy. Duly elected governments have not been allowed to function and agitations have surcharged the atmosphere leading to violent incidents.”

She further went on to justify imposition of censorship;

“You know that I have always believed in the freedom of the press, and I still do, but like all freedoms it has to be exercised with responsibility and restraint. In situations of internal disturbance, whether language or communal riots, grave mischief has been done by irresponsible writing and we had to prevent such a situation”

If there is a sense of déjà vu today in 2012 with respect to the justifications of internet/social media censoring and the dismissive attitude of the government about legitimate demands of the opposition parties in the last few weeks, then it is just a pointer towards how the cancerous Congress party has not changed in close to 40 years.

Stage 2: Locally advanced Cancer (1975-1998)

Congress received a serious bout of shock treatment after the emergency and it was widely presumed to be succumbing to cancer. But fortunately for the Congress and unfortunately for India, the party was resuscitated by the sheer opportunism and life-sized egos of the opposition leaders. To her credit, the wily Mrs Gandhi had brought Congress out of the deathbed into ambulatory stage by her will power alone. But deep within the core, cancer was advancing at a rapid pace. Now the once mighty party of intellectual giants and political heavyweights was reduced to a collection of political midgets with the sole property of undying loyalty to Indira. It was in this background that she went on a disastrous political course of first engaging and then fighting the Khalistani forces of Sikh nationalism.

There were three symptoms that came about in the early 80’s clearly pointing towards the advancing stage of cancer within the Congress and its impact on the overall Indian body politic;

  1. Politics of encouraging Jarnail Singh Bindranwale to belittle the Akalis
  2. Operation blue-star and the consequent assassination of Mrs Gandhi
  3. The daylight massacre of thousands of innocent Sikhs on the streets of Delhi

Dr Rajiv Gandhi correctly diagnosed the disease (once again a Gandhi as a doctor) at the centenary session of the Congress in the Brabourne stadium and even prescribed the right medicine of cleansing the party and the system of brokers and middlemen. In effect Rajiv suggested that Congress needed a major surgery to get rid of “loyalists” and to attract real talent back into the party fold as a cure for this advanced stage of carcinoma. But alas! History repeated once again as a farce and the young new Gandhi went on to practise the exact opposite of what he had preached. Congress party became a den of notorious Italian creatures who managed to push the party deeper into the cesspool of corruption and nepotism. Finally a string of judgemental errors resulted in Rajiv meeting the destiny of his mother, for he too was assassinated (by Tamil tigers on May 21 1991).

By the early 90’s a forced political chemotherapy had resulted in the Congress party severing off various body parts just to survive in the battlefield. In the mid 90’s Congress party had gone into irrelevance in two of India’s largest states in terms of parliamentary seats; UP & Bihar from the Hindi heartland; while it had already been pushed out of Tamil Nadu in the south & West Bengal in the east. UP & Bihar particularly hurt the party as they were strongholds for many decades even before the independence; for instance in 1937, Congress had won 75% vote-share and 98 out of 152 seats in Bihar while garnering 65% vote-share & 134 out of 228 seats in United Provinces, despite having to face a separate Muslim electorate reserved for ‘Muslim League’ by the British government. Thus Congress was either a very minor political player or almost totally irrelevant in about 220 parliamentary seats or about 40% of India by the 90’s, a far cry from the heady days of the Nehru-Indira era. In effect, after 1984 Congress has never won a majority on its own and has been in power at the centre only for about 64% of the time since then, and very significantly a Nehru-Gandhi has been the head of the government for less than 18% of the time in these 28 tumultuous years.

Metastasized Carcinoma (1998-onwards)

Antonia Edvige Albina Maino, the widow of the assassinated former prime minister of India waited for 7 inexplicable years before taking over the reins of the Congress party in 1998. She had to wait for a further 6 years to enjoy unbridled power of ruling India without any responsibility whatsoever. It is not coincidental that since her ascendancy to Congress presidency the party has crossed all limits of decency in practising unprecedented acts of corruption and phenomenal levels of populism. Three former Prime Ministers and the entire clan of Nehru-Gandhis look like harmless chicken feed when compared to Albina Maino alias Sonia Gandhi and her ability to corrupt India and Indians.

Over the last 8 years the cancer of corruption has metastasized so widely that it has percolated to almost every part of the Congress party which is now such an overwhelmingly incestuous club that each and every member of the party is either a son or father or uncle or nephew or wife or daughter of another powerful congressman. The cancer of Congress has managed to corrupt and corrode each and every institution of India, right from the judiciary to army to news media and to even the parliament itself. The number of zeros in the sums of money involved and the scale of corruption is unprecedented not only in the Indian but probably the world history. By creating corrupt populist schemes like MNREGS and Food Security, the Congress party has managed to impart the cancer of corruption beyond the realms of political governance to the doorsteps of aam janata.

In its last stint as the ruling party of India, Congress is also indulging in blatantly communal politics by introducing religion based quota and communal violence bill and by forcing the policeman to remain a mute spectator to blatant acts of violence committed by Muslim fanatics. The cancer has spread to the brain cells and the party does not even realise its own blunders.

It is not as if that such widespread disease is not producing debilitating consequences. In fact the 2009 electoral verdict was the last hurrah for the Congress; like a candle burning at its brightest just before it extinguishes itself. Other than the parliamentary victory of 2009, Congress is simply a 5 state party in Maharashtra, AP, Assam, Rajasthan and Kerala, for apart from the Hindi heartland, it has gotten wiped out of central India; Orissa, MP and Chhattisgarh. In the coming one year the Congress party will not only lose nationally but also would be decimated in AP & Rajasthan leaving it with a very shaky alliance in Maharashtra and a communally surcharged Assam. Essentially, the Congress party is staring at a complete wipe-out from India’s political landscape by the end of 2013.

After the humungous defeat of 1977, when Indira Gandhi was looking for a turnaround in her political fortunes, she turned towards the state of Karnataka. Today again Karnataka is the last straw that Congress is trying to hold on to, for that state could be the difference between a dead Congress and a Congress on its deathbed.

Epilogue: What India needs today is not just a regime change but a ‘total revolution’ that JP promised in the mid-70s but could not deliver. The need of the hour is a socio-political shock therapy to alter the entire system that has been corrupted and co-opted by the ruling elite. A new Yatri celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda is traversing that path of total revolution that will put all these middlemen, news traders, editorial pontificators, pseudo-secularists, ivory tower dwellers and self-proclaimed intelligentsia out of their jobs. That is the reason why we hear so much of venom, day in and day out, against the Yatri, for he will not only put them out of business forever but also change the destiny of India for the future generations.

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Praveen Patil

Praveen Patil

Analyst of Indian electoral politics and associated economics with a right-of-centre perspective.