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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 6 New Delhi January 27, 2018 - Republic Day Special

An Interesting episode: Congress Presidential Election

Saturday 27 January 2018

by Sardar Amjad Ali

In the annals of the history of the Indian National Congress, December 16, 2017 will remain a memorable day. Not only because a change in the presidency of this one-hundred- and-thirtytwo-year party after a long twenty-year period took place on that December evening, but also because of various other factors that may well be recorded.

In our Indian set-up of parliamentary democracy, every political party registered with the Election Commission of India, the constitutional watch-dog body of all democratic elections to the State and Union legislatures, has to undergo a process of democratic elections of their own hierarchy. Whatever may be its pattern or process, the party has in default to run the risk of deregistration from the Commission’s roll. Such a legal mandate was perhaps made for the reason that in our democratic process of government formation, the popular electoral method is the only constitutional route through which a registered political party can enter the process. And, therefore, a political party seeking to enter the fray must observe the rule mandatorily in its own way according to its own rule-book.

Elections of the hierarchy of the 1866 registered political parties hardly draw any public attraction except for a limited few. Of these limited few, the Indian National Congress is the one which, however, exceptionally draws the attraction of the common people together with the seasoned political as well as intellectual class in and outside the country compared to others. Albeit critics, who may stand up hand in hand against this writer to oppose this perception, are no less in number, but the fact remains stranger than fiction.

The reasons are not too remote to be identified.

Its long history of valour and sacrifice for emancipation of the Indian people from the yoke of colonial rule for more than two centuries left a proverbial image in the minds of not only the Indians but also of those who had the bitter taste of colonial slavery and savage exploitation. Even those who ruled others in different distant territories, could not ignore in registering their estimation of the struggle of the Indian people led by this teranga outfit.

The electoral grandeur of the Indian National Congress attracts the attention of the people at large also for the reason that it chooses a leader who not only leads the party for party-formation and its battle for government-formation, but at the end of the day becomes a national icon himself to be remembered by posterity, multiplying/adding to its number icons compared to others.

The party, unlike others, has produced people’s leaders of enigmatic charisma who could perceive the pulse of the Indian people of different hues in the light of their distinct culture, faith, language, religion, caste and creed, their expectations and aspirations and led the party to frame such policies and programmes which would address the citizens of India that is Bharat, not of Hindustan of the Hindus. The numerous political parties dwelling on the Indian demcratic rostrum have to engage themselves in digging out their own history to find their political icons who to this nation of sixtynine years at least are familiar, far less popular.

Proverbially this party had, notwithstanding many odds over the years, left an image in the minds of the young and old, men and women, that it does not in the midway give up its ideological battle for the good of its own people, subject of course to keeping pace with the global march vis-a-vis its domestic resources, economic and intellectual. It has down the years built a confidence in the Indian minds as well as the international arena that come what may, its leaders believe in their heart of hearts that any crisis, whatever be its nature, dimension or complexion, can be solved by only taking the nation as a whole into confidence and guiding them to a saner direction to achieve the goal.

Judging the party’s approach to build and maintain international relations, it can be said that the party has had never yielled to any pressure from any nation to give up the country’s well-thought-out strategy of playing the role of a distinct and distinguished nation in addrssing all global issues of universal concern, be it social, economic or political. In any such related issue, the leaders of the party have always unequi-vocally made it known to the world that while the dignity of independent India is non-negotiable, at the same time global human dignity cannot also be a commodity of barter to any political dispensation, whatever be its worth in terms of its military or economic strength.

The ideological concept and/or philosophy of the Congress party is unique in its nature in that it does not divide people on the basis of their numerical, financial, religious or any other superficial criteria. For the Congress, unlike others, a citizen’s only identity is that he or she is an Indian citizen irrespective of his or her personal identity based on birth, religion, caste, creed, region, profession etc.

Its political rivals and critics are vociferous about its mantle being carried by persons coming from a particular family, namely, the Nehru-Gandhi family, and therefore it symbolises a dynastic outfit. True, the presidency of the party has been represented many a time by the Nehru-Gandhi scions. However, it must be admitted that while this party of 132 years was for a period of 40 years presided over by the Nehru-Gandhi family, for the rest of the years the presidency was with other leaders whose stewardship of the party was also significant. Nonetheless events indicate that the party’s history of change in its leadership is rooted in issues other than those in the dynastic dimension.

Another significant factor that draws both national and international attention to the process of the party’s post-Indira presidential election is that the Congress rank-and-file throughout the length and breadth of this vast country repose their faith upon a leader who comes from a family whose members have laid down their lives for the cause of the nation, regardless of the personal threat that they experienced quite frequently. Service of the nation and the country is far more sacred than self-interest was and remains the commitment of these leaders from the dynasty that commands the veneration of a cross-section of the people of both India and abroad. Though there was no caveat for others to build a dynasty of their choice, it is unfortunate that none succeeded in doing so except showering invectives on a family of martyrs at the altar of the nation.

Traditionally here is a party which elects a person as its President not for his or her bias to any particular socio-political, socio-religious or socio-economic outlook other than overall national interest, minimisation of economic disparities of the people, commitment to composite culture and radical transformation of the Indian society in the light of modern scientific and technological indices as well as peaceful co-existence with the global community.

Let other political outfits of India marshal the art of uniqueness taking lessons from the Indian National Congress, if they so desire.

A practising senior advocate of the Calcutta High Court, the author is a leading figure in the West Bengal Congress. A formear member of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in the seventies, he was the Secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Party when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister.

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