By Kanika Rangray
The term “Congress” was first chosen for the Continental Congress to emphasize the status of each colony represented there as a self-governing unit. After its use by the US legislature, the term has been widely adopted by many states within unions and by unitary nation states in the Americas to refer to their legislatures.
The word Congress is also used in the name of several political parties, implying the use of democracy in the functioning and organisation within the party. Countries which have congress parties include Guyana, India, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Namibia, Pakistan, Sudan, Fiji, Canary Islands, Nepal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda.
Out of all the “Congress parties” throughout the world, India has eight of them, The only congress party which follows a dynasty is the Indian National Congress (INC), the second-largest national party in India.
Commonly known as Congress, over the years this coalition has turned into a Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The family is an Indian political lineage, which has traditionally revolved around the INC, and as if following a tradition—the members of this family have led the Congress party, ignoring the will or the capability of the person concerned.
In 2007, The Guardian wrote:
The Nehru Gandhi brand has no peer in the world—a member of the family has been in charge of India for 40 of the 60 years since independence. The allure of India’s first family blends the right to rule of British monarchy with the tragic glamour of America’s Kennedy clan.
The Congress has remained in power majorly due to its association with the name Gandhi. During the 1998 elections, the party won 141 seats in the Lok Sabha. So, for the purpose of boosting the popularity of the party among the masses and to improve the chances of winning the next elections—the Congress Party leaders urged Sonia Gandhi to assume the leadership of the party.
The entire concept of “dynasty politics” started with Indira Gandhi. After the death of her father Jawaharlal Nehru, the successive Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri invited her to join his cabinet. Gandhi had refused the presidency of the party and instead chose to join the cabinet.
After Shastri’s death, the Congress Party elected Indira Gandhi over Morarji Desai as their leader. Gandhi came to power in the 1971 elections, and soon after that, her journey from a party’s president to a nation’ prime minister started.
Indira brought her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi, in the party to succeed her, but after the death of Sanjay in a plane crash in 1980, Rajiv Gandhi was brought to the party.
After her assassination in 1984, Rajiv succeeded his mother in the party and went on to become the prime minister. His assassination in 1991, allegedly by Tamil Tigers, brought the downfall of the party. It is then that Sonia Gandhi, his widow stepped in to take the presidency of the party.
Even though Sonia Gandhi initially refused to play any kind of active role in party affairs, she was eventually roped in for the role. Her appointment as the party president did not show an immediate effect but eventually led to a victory in the 2004 general elections where the UPA (United Progressive Alliance—a Congress-led alliance with various regional parties) defeated the NDA (National Democratic Alliance—a party coalition led by the BJP) with a substantial margin.
She refused the post of Prime Minister and as a consequence of which, Dr. Manmohan Singh filled the position.
Gandhi remained the party president and ran the government as a back-hand executive.
Rahul Gandhi, son of Sonia Gandhi and the current Gandhi generation, was roped in and now is the vice-president of the party. He also holds a seat in Amethi, which has remained the Congress’s bastion ever since its formation in 1966, and the seat of power of the Nehru-Gandhi family since 1980.
In effect, it has repeatedly emerged that the Congress is a hierarchy of the Nehru-Gandhi family, and notably, it literally runs on the name “Gandhi”.