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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 50 New Delhi December 1, 2018

Quest for the Lost Dignity

Sunday 2 December 2018

by Sardar Amjad Ali

The Indian National Congress, a party of distinction and heritage, fought the battle of liberation of India from the foreign yoke of 200 long years. With a heritage of Gandhi-Nehru-Indira’s association, the party, since 2014, has been under a most heinous attack, as a party of irrelevance in the Indian contemporary political history, by the mainstream media of the country. Their main contention is that a party, having 130 years of descent, could secure only 44 seats in a House of 543 in the last Lok Sabha elections. The other facets of their campaign were aimed at the party’s weak leadership, lack of stable/effective organisation and the much-hyped canard of corruption.

True it is that the party leadership in different States was not that of expected quality or efficiency. Loose organisation, tainted with internal squabbles and lack of effective answer to the canards levelled by an articulate speaker like Narendra Modi, were no doubt, relevant. The concerted, cost-effective campaign in the national media in an orchestrated manner at a fabulous expenditure that the BJP could afford, alongwith the unprecedented financial assis-tance of their crony capitalists, and the unrealistic hopes and expectations generated among all classes of citizens, particularly the youth, in well-versed, articulate and hypnotic vocabularies by Narendra Modi, resulted in extra milege; no doubt all this was assisted by the well-calculated presentations of the media.

Anti-establishment tenets have always been one of the most determinate factors in moulding the public psyche in election time. During the long years of the Congress regime admittedly there had been many abrasions. Per contra, its achievements and determined objective of establishing an egalitarian society, as was Nehru-Indira’s quest, that is, a society shorn of caste, creed, religion, ensuring equality before law and equal opportunity to every citizen, to flourish economically, socially and culturally as a nation with a self-reliant economy through cohesive and collective effort, had suffered deliberate ignominy at the hands of the media. This too cannot be lost sight of.

Inflated charges of corruption, slow economic progress, unemployment apart, a sinister charge of partisan interest shown by the Congress to a particular religious group was the most heinous and vicious bogey the BJP indulged in. The strategy was intended to consolidate a targeted constituency of a religious hue. I, as a Congress worker as well as a Member of Parliament, having worked with Indiraji and her colleagues, such as D.P. Dhar, K.D. Malaviya, Y.B. Chavan, Babu Jagjivan Ram, Devraj Urs, K. Karunakaran, Uma Shankar Dikshit, Kamala-pathi Tripathi, do not accept the unfounded virulent criticism by the BJP and its cohorts. To indict the Congress leadership as being extra-sensitive towards a particular religious group is nothing but a libelous insinuation for political gain. Justice Rajindar Sachar, in his report, however, did not endorse the canard. Not that the post-Indira and/or post-Rajiv leaderships of the Congress were less sensitive or more tilted towards any particular religious group. The personal integrity of these Congress leaders was above board.

Indiraji’s critics say that she failed in developing a new generation of leadership in the Congress and the void started from thence. It is well known that slander sometimes get dispropor-tionate credo when reationality or factual matrix altains a tragic state. The picture is, however, different in reality. Was it not Indira Gandhi who built up a young generation of leaders in I.K. Gujral, Chandrashekhar, Sharad Pawar, V.C. Shukla, K.C. Pant, Krishna Kant, Purna Sangma, to speak of a few? Indiraji had the sagacity to lend her ears to them on national and inter-national issues which they argued and she conveyed her assent to their observations. But hard realities are more shocking. In her crisis days none of those gentlemen was with her. To share the booty of political bargain each one of them decamped conveniently.

Even Pranab Mukherjee, who was the most favoured person during Indira Gandhi’s rule, did not hesitate to decamp when Rajiv Gandhi denied him a berth in his Cabinet, though he rejoined later under Rajiv in his Council of Ministers.

Didn’t Rajiv Gandhi shower his best confi-dence on Arun Nehru, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Bhagwat Jha Azad? But history tells how Rajiv’s confidence was betrayed and slain with the greedy knives of those blessed souls.

Trust, faith and confidence on others are humane qualities as opposed to betrayal, breach of trust or adulterous bargain. The last two Gandhis have been victims of a treacherous saga in exchange of their generous overtures towards their fellow-travellers in building a new India and shaping the destiny of its people.

To speak about the various scams allegedly indulged in by the erstwhile Congress regime, say, about Bofors or Coal blocks or Telecom contracts, neither before the Joint Parliamentary Committee, nor before the court of law the guilt of the Congress, as complained, could be established in spite of the complainants being in power. And yet the charge that the Congress is a party of insidious corruption persists.

But the velocity of those virulent attacks on the honesty, integrity and purpose of the party has been, of course, lethal. The consistent malicious and derogatory campaign with the nastiest invectives used against the party, with particular emphasis on the images of the leaders, had helped breed a sense of popular mistrust and loss of confidence on the dignity of a party of 130 years. Consequent upon such a perverse situation, the basic challenge before the party, as it stands today, is to restore the dignity of the party as well as the confidence of the people in its leadership, not to speak of its vision ahead with the aim of repairing the damage the country has been forced to endure under the present regime.

A curative or remedial measure can be well taken care of only when the ailment on the physique of an entity, be it an animate or inanimate object, is skilfully diognsed. Rahul Gandhi, the young President of the National Congress, has rightly detected that the party cannot be expected to be ever dependant upon the support or assistance of other political entities for its own survival. Therefore, resto-ration of its dignity and grandeur in the public mind is a priority that has to be addressed. And in doing so, the nature of the sinister attacks the ruling clique is inflicting unabatedly and with impunity upon the people at large and that too, in preference to a handful of their crony capitalists, has to be relentlessly unmasked. The Congress, as it is known, is a vehicle of mass movement for generation of mass awareness towards the vicious and diabolical attacks on the people’s right to justice, self-determination, secular system of governance, balanced economic development, sustained growth, resistance to unholy exploitation and a self-reliant socio-economic state-structure. Thus it has to tread over that cherished route to restore popular confidence in the party. The heredity of India’s cultural distinction, popular tolerance, constitu-tional nationalism and peaceful co-existence with its neighbours has also to be commemorated with honour and dignity. Rahul Gandhi, as the Congress President, has done well to take care of these factors over which the dignity of the party, as he very often says, can be built.

In building a party, governmental power may be at times of help but that does not help unless a party, in a constitutional popular electoral democracy like ours, is based on mass support and inclusionary approach to human resources. Rahul Gandhi, it is evident, does not believe in the power-oriented cataclysm of party-building. His vision is not that of an exclusionary approach to human resources, either of the party workers or in addressing the issues touching different segments of the Indian populace.

In organising the party, a structure synchro-nised with the wisdom of the veterans and the exuberance of the youth appears to have been strategically adhered to. In the long run this is likely to give the desired dividend.

To identify a political rival, not only a claimant in the ultimate power-game, but also an ideological rival in the national polity, keeping an honest estimate of the real ethos the nation craves for, is a delicate one. The BJP, proceeding with an ideology of making India a theocratic state of medieval culture, has rightly been identified by Rahul Gandhi, representing a party with secular ideals, as the deadliest political force to emerge on the horizon. To fight such a divisive and communal outfit, consolidation of the secular forces is the imminent need of the hour. Immediacy of ascendance to power will dilute the real objective seems to have been Rahul’s perception at the moment. If that be so, his move will not only instil popular confidence in the honesty of purpose of his political struggle but also enhance the dignity of the party which has been ruthlessly attacked by some of the media organisations with vested interest, alleging the Congress to be a party whch is nothing but a power-hungry selfish political giant. In his recent electoral strategy Rahul Gandhi has taken such allegations in his stride with abundant transparency and honesty of purpose.

Yet then one has to keep a close watch as to how the people of India, who fought successfully against colonial exploitation, overcoming the then rulers’ divisive political strategy on the one side and the subject nation’s humiliating servitude on the other, react and record their signs of approval or disapproval to whatever is happening today. However, at the moment we do not have before us unlimited time which, incidentally, is fast running out.

The author is a former Congress Member of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and a senior Advocate of the Calcutta High Court.

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