The Indian National Congress (INC) is branded as India’s Grand Old Party owing to the crucial role it played during India’s pre-independence era. Its leaders were the primary representatives of India’s populace desiring independence from their British masters. It attracted leaders from various walks of life, from various religions, various backgrounds, various castes and various religions. Its Presidents have been Bengalis, Britishers, Parsis, Muslims, Hindus, Brahmins, Men and Women. It had time and again shown that it represented a variety of interests and they all converged to the same goal – the betterment of the nation.
Yet one wonders, as to why a party with such a rich legacy has become nothing more than a rallying point for sycophants of the Nehru-Gandhi clan. Why is it that keeping all merits aside, the party is unable to look beyond a 47-year old youth leader, with at best a patchy electoral history. The answer is simpler than you think.
The fact is that the INC of the day is not the INC of yesteryears. It is not the Indian National Congress that had leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel, Dadabhai Naoroji, Lala Lajpat Rai and many more. The party has split time and again and the current version was founded by none other than Indira Gandhi. In 1969, Congress party President S. Nijalingappa expelled Indira Gandhi from Congress which prompted Ms. Gandhi to launch her own version of Congress called the Congress (R). In 1978, she further split this political party to form Congress (I), notably, the ‘I’ stood for Indira. When Gandhi first split the party in 1969, the original party under S. Nijalingappa was declared as Congress (O). This group later merged with the Janata Party in 1977. The Janata Party struggled after its government fell and was led by Subramaniam Swamy who in 2013 merged it with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Election Commission decided to declare the Congress (I) as the original Congress prompting them to drop the ‘I’ since there was no other Congress party at the time in existence.
So what we now know is that the original Congress party split into two groups. One was converted into a personal fiefdom by Indira Gandhi and later by her family barring a few years when its leadership was not with the Gandhi clan (which the current leaders despise and refuse to acknowledge) and the other group merged with the BJP. So in some way, BJP may have as much claim to the INC legacy as much as the current Gandhi fiefdom has. But let’s forget for a moment as to who is carrying the torch of the real INC.
The issue is that the current INC is not a political party that was founded on principles of internal democracy. It was, from its inception (in 1978 and not in 1885) the brainchild of Indira Gandhi and has been used as a hand-me-down by the family ever since. There is no space for dissent or alternate views as it is controlled by the promoter family, so why should they have internal democracy. The BJP may not be an ideal democracy but at least it recognized the merit of an erstwhile tea-seller to make him the Prime Minister.