What should Congress do?

What should Congress do?

Congress flag. Credit: DH File Photo

Every nation secures precisely as good a government as it merits. If you, the picked men, the most highly educated of the nation, cannot, scorning personal ease and selfish objects, make a resolute struggle to secure greater freedom for yourselves and your country, a more impartial administration, a larger share in the management of your own affairs…  hopes of progress are at an end, and India truly neither desires nor deserves any better government than she enjoys at present.”

This 1883 letter by retired British civil servant Allan Octavian Hume resulted in the founding of the Indian National Congress, with the permission of Viceroy Lord Ripon, on December 28, 1885, at Mumbai’s Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College, attended by 72 delegates including two Scottish men - William Wedderburn and Justice John Jardin. Hume assumed office as general secretary and Womesh Chundra Bonnerjee as president. Perhaps the British administration realised that for successful governance of India, the co-operation of the natives is very much essential following the 1857 sepoy revolution.

Looting India began with barbarians like Timur, Genghis Khan etc, who plundered Hindu temples as well as Muslim mosques for wealth followed by the British businessmen/empire taking over India and making it its subsidiary. The kings, beginning with the Mughals, be a Hindu or a Muslim, did not transfer Indian wealth overseas although they exploited their own populace, with the exception of Shivaji and Ibrahim Adil Shahi.

In the early days of INC, it limited itself to petitioning the Viceroys for reservation in employment. All of us know the history of the INC beginning with Dadabhay Naoroji  becoming the first Indian member of the British Parliament and later Lal, Bal, Pal  - Lala Lajpat Rai, Balagangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal – vigorously taking up the cause of Independence. The seed of total independence was sown with the war cry of Tilak’s “freedom is my birthright”, roaring in the court hall, and ending up with Mahatma Gandhi – the rebellious pacificist - raising his voice in 1942, “Quit India”, “Do or Die”, “Sampoorna Swarajya”, reverberating across the nook and corner of the country, touching the chords of every Indian heart.

The sun “who never sank in the British empire” eclipsed. Not only our motherland became independent but colonisation of all types ended in the world. The INC can proudly proclaim that it was the vehicle of this great world movement.

It is not surprising that when India was vivisected into two, Pakistan called itself an Islamic nation though proclaiming in its Constitution that all are equal irrespective of creed and faith. But it proved within a few months that this theocratical state considered minorities like Hindus, Sikhs and Christians and even Ahmadiyas as second class citizens living at the mercy and charity of the majority.

Here, we should be proud that the INC resisted with all its might the pulls and pressures in becoming a Hindu Rashtra though the atmosphere to become so was conducive then. But India, due to true Hinduism absorbing within itself the best of Christianity and Islam, proudly declared itself a secular state. Millions of Muslims remained in India accepting it as their motherland and live harmoniously.

We should be grateful always to eminent Congressmen like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Babu Rajendra Prasad, Govind Vallabh Pant, C Rajagopalachari, JB Kripalani, Jayaprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia and the towering guiding force Mahatma Gandhi.

True Bharatiyata

The Ambedkar-led Constitution - “we the people of India” - remained as a secular state thanks to the then all-powerful and all-inclusive INC representing the true Bharatiyata and its consciousness and conducting itself accordingly. Spiritualism became the foundation of politics and economics.

In 70 years of Independence, Ganga has become much more polluted reflecting the disease set in our society. Politics has become divisive, abusive, the safeguarding institutions meekly surrendered, media started screaming, and hate has found its movement of grandeur.

At this juncture, when INC is losing its sheen and the country is moving towards a monolithic, one-man party structure what should it do? In spite of many hurdles, it is apt to remember what then prime minister Manmohan Singh told US President Barack Obama: “In uncertain times, the call of religious and ethnic solidarity can be intoxicating, and it is not so hard for politicians to exploit the situation..”

In an atmosphere of illiberalism and unabashed lie-mongering, regional parties are becoming state/individual-family centric with a limited outlook, BJP in its no-holds-barred aggressive mode of converting the entire country into misuse of a great religion like Hinduism in all spheres. Economics, political science, jurisprudence, culture, history, culture… all become subservient to this agenda.

The INC, however meek it may look, is pan-Indian and present everywhere. In such a dismal Covid-19 situation, INC should quickly re-energise itself by following what Sam Pitroda, the architect of Indian communication systems, said, “Follow Gandhi.” Former party president Rahul Gandhi famously said “the power of truth should rule over the truth of power”. 

Congressmen should forget they are born only to rule and think elections and political power are secondary and they are the great inheritors of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar. They should stop “the play and pay politics” and take up the cause of aam aadmi and fight all types of exploitation in the Gandhian way of non-violence and satyagraha steering clear of personal corruption and vested interests.

When the BJP governance is going berserk, the Congressmen would be expected to not to indulge in any election-related malpractices. They are expected to realise within themselves the history, the philosophy, and the culture of Congress and its leaders should become role models. Money power, muscle and lies can be countered only by honesty, moral courage and truth. If the country gets balkanised and unstable, INC should not blame BJP but itself for failing in its duty.

(The writer is former Principal, Seshadripuram College, Bengaluru, and ex-vice president, KPCC; Opinion personal)