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Indian National Congress: Not a democratic setup, a Nehru-Gandhi dynasty

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Congress-rally

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.Flag_of_the_Indian_National_Congress.svg_

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.

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Indira Gandhi with her son Sanjay Gandhi

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.

Photo credit: newindianexpress.com
Manmohan Singh & Sonia Gandhi

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”.

 

Next Story

Will Congress Party be Able to Survive in Future in Face of Modi Onslaught?

It was India’s “Grand Old Party.” The Congress Party ruled the country for 55 out of 71 years since independence

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From left, Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi, her son and party President Rahul Gandhi, and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attend a Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

It was India’s “Grand Old Party.” The Congress Party ruled the country for 55 out of 71 years since independence. But following the party’s crushing electoral debacle for a second time, there are questions about its future as the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty at its helm is unable to counter the most powerful leader India has produced in decades: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Contrary to expectations, India’s mammoth general election turned out to be virtually a no-contest between Modi and Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi as it became a presidential-style battle.

“It is not what went wrong with the Congress, it is more of a story of what went right for Prime Minister Modi. He stood as a tall leader, as an achiever, as somebody who understood people’s aspirations,” says political commentator Rasheed Kidwai, who has authored a biography of Rahul Gandhi’s mother, Sonia Gandhi. On the other hand, “Rahul Gandhi is temperamentally not a power wielder. He is a trustee of power.”

The sixth member of the Nehru Gandhi family to lead the party, Rahul is often seen as a “reluctant politician”, despite his spirited campaign to revive the party and challenge Modi after its rout in 2014.

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves toward his supporters during an election campaign rally in New Delhi, May 8, 2019. VOA

Gandhi’s rallies drew crowds, but his efforts to project Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party as a threat to India’s secular traditions or to highlight issues of economic distress failed to resonate. His attempts to nail him for corruption in a deal to buy Rafale French fighter jets fell flat. His promise of a minimum wage for India’s poorest families was met with skepticism, even among the poor.

On the other hand, Modi, successfully wooed voters with his message of strident nationalism and subtle appeal to the majority Hindu community. Along with it, there was another theme: he projected himself as the humble son of a tea seller, a self made man who fought all odds to reach the top post in contrast to what he called the “entitled” Gandhi who had inherited the mantle of leadership of the Congress Party. It drew cheers from the country’s emerging middle and lower-middle classes, exhausted with dynastic politics.

The Congress Party’s tally of 52 seats in parliament was only a notch higher than the 44 seats it won in 2014 in the 545-member parliament. The party’s candidates returned empty-handed in half the Indian states and in several others the party only mustered a single digit tally.Modi’s BJP won 303 seats.

The scale of its losses not just crushed hopes the Congress Party would either lead a credible challenge to Modi or return as invigorated opposition – it once again raised questions over the leadership of the Gandhi family.

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The sixth member of the Nehru Gandhi family to lead the party, Rahul is often seen as a “reluctant politician”, despite his spirited campaign to revive the party and challenge Modi after its rout in 2014. VOA

Rahul Gandhi has offered to resign, but expectedly the party that has no second rung of leadership has turned it down. “The party will fulfill its role as a strong opposition. We need Rahul Gandhi to lead us in these challenging times,” Congress Party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said after a meeting of the party’s senior leaders on the weekend.

Rahul Gandhi also lost the Amethi constituency the party had held for 50 years in Uttar Pradesh state. In another humiliating blow for the Gandhi family, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was appointed in a senior post to revive the party, failed to make an impact. Rahul’s mother, Sonia Gandhi, won her party’s only seat in the state.

Rahul Gandhi’s victory in another constituency in South India means he will continue to be a lawmaker. Dynastic politics is not limited to the Congress Party: lawmakers from political families are a routine feature of Indian politics. But political commentators say in an era showing a preference for strong, populist leaders, Modi was the clear victor.

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here are questions about its future as the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty at its helm is unable to counter the most powerful leader India has produced in decades: Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“There is a new sense of nationalism sweeping across many conventional democracies. There is a yearning for a strong leader that captures the public imagination,” according to political analyst Ajoy Bose. “I don’t really see the conventional Congress Party or the conventional leadership mounting a challenge to Modi. He has completely taken the country by storm.”

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Gandhi tried to give a positive message after the party’s rout. “We have a different vision of India [from Modi]”, said the head of the party that has long projected itself as a defender of India’s minorities, such as Muslims who worry about religious polarization and a rise in hate crimes since Modi came to power. “There is no need to be afraid. We will continue to work hard and we will eventually win.”

But it may be difficult to reinvent what analysts call a “fading party.” They say Modi’s BJP now occupies the dominant political space that the Congress party did for decades. “Congress is going to get reduced to, you know, like the Liberals did in Britain,” says Rasheed Kidwai. (VOA)