Congress insults Indira Gandhi?
Indira Gandhi has been acknowledged widely as perhaps the greatest mass leader of a democracy during the last century. Her charisma remains unparalleled till today and the love, affection and respect she commanded in her lifetime and even after her brutal assassination is both exceptional and unequalled.
Her life was a struggle even though she was the daughter of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. She battled the syndicate in the Congress to emerge victorious and later trounced the Grand Alliance of several opposition parties in 1971. Senior BJP/Jan Sangh leader Atal Behari Vajpayee acknowledged her leadership quality and likened her to Goddess Durga after she changed the geography of the sub continent by helping Bangla Desh achieve its independence from Pakistan.
She appeared unconquerable as she led the country forward and formulated her policies keeping in mind the interests of the aam aadmi. She has been criticized for the promulgation of emergency in 1975 on the counsel of her then close advisers like Sidhartha Shankar Ray after Jai Prakash Narayan gave a call to the Armed forces to revolt. She was also accused of promoting her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi and the result was that when elections were held in 1977, the Congress was virtually wiped out in the whole of North India. She even lost from Rae Bareilly to late Raj Narain whose election petition had led to her unseating on June 12, 1975.
But Indira Gandhi was a born fighter and egged on by her son, Sanjay, she hit right back. The fight back started from Uttar Pradesh where Mohsina Kidwai, the Congress candidate trounced the opposition in Azamgarh. She herself returned to Lok Sabha from Chikmaglur in Karnataka only to be disqualified by a revengeful Janata Party. She led her party to victory in 1980. Her tragic assassination shocked the entire Nation so much that in 1984, people paid the greatest tribute to her memory by returning the Congress led by her son and successor Rajiv Gandhi with 417 seats, the highest ever in the country’s history. The Congress in 1984 won 83 out of 85 Lok Sabha seats and this was the public acknowledgement of her leadership abilities. The Congress in that state and elsewhere has never been the same ever since.
Why I have written all this is because I wish to strongly contest the claims made by intellectuals and the well read in the fifth volume of the Centenary history of the Indian National Congress. Whether it is Prof. Sudha Pai or someone else, their views on the period from 1964 to 1984 are very subjective and based on theoretical perceptions. One fails to understand how they could infer that the Indira era had led to the Congress decline in UP. Nothing is further from the truth.
The decline of the Congress in UP started in the most pronounced manner during the Prime Ministership of PV Narasimha Rao. It suited him to keep the party weak in the North so he could with the help of support from the South of Vindhyas keep his claim strong. He wanted the party weakened because of strategic reasons. However, after 1996, the Congress has not been able to make a comeback in the state though its best performance after a long time was in 2009 when it got 22 seats partly because of Rahul Gandhi’s persistent efforts and due to the Kurmi vote brought to the party by leaders like Beni Prasad Verma.
The claims made in the official book are blasphemous and the Congress leadership cannot just sit back and say that these views were not those of the party but of some scholars and academics. The main point is that the party’s greatest ever leader has been shown in poor light in a book commissioned by the Congress. It is true that Pranab Mukherjee who is officially described as the Editor of the series may not have had time to go through each word but whoever approved the final draft must be severely reprimanded. If Indira Gandhi’s criticism was say published in a BJP, CPM or any opposition journal, one could understand the political compulsions behind such writing. But to criticize her or undermine her in a Congress publication is simply unforgivable.
I am really appalled by the state of affairs. I recollect that when Narasimha Rao contested from Nandyal in 1991 after becoming the Prime Minister, visuals of Indira Gandhi were shown all over the constituency to garner support. The poor people when asked who they would vote for only had one word, “Amma” meaning Indira Gandhi. It had been seven years since she had died but people in Nandyal still adored her. Such was her charisma that it even overshadowed the Telugu Bidda, Rao.
The unfortunate aspect of the controversy is that the present Congress leadership owes its position to a large degree to her legacy. It is this legacy, which has provided the party leadership the elevated status. It is therefore very important for the current leaders to understand that erroneous projection of Indira Gandhi will hurt them more than anybody.
The Congress journal carrying inaccurate account of the party’s iconic figure amounts to the act of Kalidas who in his earlier days was spotted cutting the same branch on which he was sitting. The Congress must make amends immediately. It is extremely important to do so for its own good.