Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Congress was a movement. So has been any political party that captures power. So Gandhiji was chalking out a program for Congress as a voluntary organization. At the time of his assassination, it was a stillborn child. With Gandhiji’s demise, the scheme was not even discussed nor the papers consigned to Archives. They must have been buried or burnt.
In post-Independent India, with the August Thyagies (When it became almost certain that India would gain independence, many joined the Quit India Movement in August 1942. Historian Nilakanta Sastry called them August Thyagies) rising to power, some stalwarts started retreating from the public life: went back to their ancestral or hereditary professions as teachers, agriculture, trade and commerce, doctor, Archaka, Purohits, etc.
Some of them revolted and formed either jointly or severally their own parties. A good number of them were rehabilitated, either as Governors or Ambassadors. JB Kripalani sarcastically remarked: “No 7, Jantar-Mantar, then headquarters of the AICC, is the biggest Political Employment Exchange in the world, where, defeated, disappointed and disgruntled Congressmen are rehabilitated as Governors and Ambassadors.”
Many, who were either rejected or disappointed in the states, still capable of creating discomfiture to the powerful and wanted to remain, active politicians, were drafted to the Centre. Stalwarts in the Opposition, particularly the Socialists were also encouraged to defect with juicy positions.
So Congress remained a monolithic body for a long time, both at the Centre and States. To a great extent, it also helped to preserve the unity and integrity of the nation.
Among those who detested and went out of the Congress included Jaya Prakash Narayanan, Kripalani, Ranga, Rajaji, Purushothamdas Thandon, Prakasam Pantulu, Pattam Thanu Pillai, Minoo Masani, Acharya Narendra Dev, Achyut Patwardhan, and Ashok Mehta.
Vinoba Bhave launched the Bhoodan movement and later Sarvodaya Movement. Jayaprakash Narayana, considered the successor to Nehru joined Vinoba Bhave.
Of course, he returned to restore democracy, with the Nav Nirman Movement. Those who parted ways with Congress did not develop personal animosity. There was no character assassination and malignity. It was the era of accommodation and mutual respect marked the politics despite sharp ideological differences.
On the other hand, they had mutual respect and regard for individuals. Dignified behavior was Hallmark of democracy. Nehru never missed an opportunity to hear Kripalani, one of his bitterest critics in the Parliament.
Prakasam was offered the Chief Ministership of the newly created Andhra state in 1953. A feeler was sent to him to rejoin the Congress. He roared, it was said: “I am the Lion of Andhra. (Andhra Kesari). The lion may go hungry. But he does not eat the food or grass”. Yet the decision to appoint him the Chief Minister of Andhra was not reversed. Purushotam Das Tandon and Kripalani contested for the Congress Presidentship in 1948. Supported by Nehru, Kripalani won. In disgust, Tandon left politics. In 1961, Bharath Rathna, the highest Civilian Award was conferred on him. Such examples abound. In stitching the cabinet, Jawaharlal Nehru personally spoke with Dr Babasaheb Amdedkar to invite him to join the cabinet. Later, he had requested Sardar Patel to ensure that Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Rajaji, and Shanumukham Chetty were also part of Independent India’s first cabinet.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee delivered an emotional speech in Parliament when Nehru passed away in May 1964. Vajpayee was a Rajya Sabha member and he said on the floor of the House: “The loss to Parliament is irreparable. Such a resident may never grace Teen Murti again. That vibrant personality, that attitude of taking even the opposition along, that refined gentlemanliness, that greatness we may not again see in the near future.”
See what Rajaji wrote about Nehru in Swarjya magazine while condoling the Prime Minister’s demise: “Eleven years younger than me, eleven times more important for the nation, and eleven hundred times more beloved of the nation…”
Rajaji, who was dubbed as a traditionalist had strongly opposed the Nehruvian socialism. But true to the era political difference never overrode the mutual admiration. Despite strong dislike for Nehru’s ideology, Rajaji was devastated by the death of Nehru and it was evident in the tributes he paid to the late PM.
Times have changed now. Accommodative politics is passe now. Political liquidation of rivals is the order of the day and is visible in every corner of the country. Every leader is baying for the blood of his political rivals.
By all means, there are no matches to Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan and Jyothiradthya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh; for that matter not even at the National level. As a former Congressman and still a sympathizer of the grand old party, I am of the opinion that Sonia, Priyanka, and Rahul are no match for them.
Self-confidence with introspection molds the leadership. The present generation of leadership lacks grace and humility. Insult to CM Anjaiah by Rajiv Gandhi raised the ‘self-respect’ sentiments. NTR encashed it. Telugu Desam Party became an alternative source of power. Congress had to wait until the arrival of indomitable YS Rajasekhar Reddy in 2004 who gave it a fresh lease of life.
When he faced a ghastly end, YSR’s legacy was ignored. Jagan fished in the troubled water. Is there a possibility of Congress rising from the dust in AP! Political analysts are coming forward with a theory of Sachin Pilot seizing the opportunity to emulate YS Jaganmohan Reddy in Rajasthan. Thus any number of regional parties have sprung up in the country. It may be parochialism. But the lack of forethought on the part of the national Parties cannot be brushed aside.
This political arrogance of ‘Delhi is Superior ‘ is not confined to Congress alone. Everyone’s political outfit soaked in power demonstrates it in abundance.
(KC Kalkura is an advocate from Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh. Ph 9440292979)