Tuesday February 19, 2019
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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

With The Elections Coming Up, Indian Government Promises Farmers Their Income Support

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers.

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Farmers, India
An Indian woman helps her farmer husband irrigate a paddy field using a traditional system, on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

With an eye on wooing voters ahead of what is expected to be a tough national election, India’s Hindu nationalist government announced cash handouts of billions of dollars for poor farmers.

In the annual budget presented in parliament Friday, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said 120 million farmers with less than two hectares of land would get an income of $85 a year.

Goyal announced that the measure, which will cost about $10.5 billion, would be implemented with immediate effect. “This will pave the way for them to earn a respectable living,” he said. “Such support will help them avoid indebtedness.”

India, Farmers
Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, center, holds a briefcase containing federal budget documents with Junior Finance ministers Shiv Pratap Shukla, center right, and Pon Radhakrishnan, left, upon their arrival at the parliament house in New Delhi, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

Farmers complain that a sharp decline in crop prices has hurt their incomes and driven millions into debt. Rural experts said they were not sure whether the measure will assuage disgruntled rural communities that have been demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce.

The government also announced a pension scheme of about $40 a month for nearly 100 million poor workers in the country’s vast unorganized sector and tax breaks for the middle classes.

The welfare measures come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party tries to address rising discontent in the country — there is growing anger in rural areas over falling crop prices and widespread worries that his government has failed to create jobs to meet the needs of the country’s huge young population.

The Bharatiya Janata Party recently lost elections in three heartland states, raising concerns it could struggle to win a majority in the upcoming elections. Modi had sailed to power in 2014 on the promise of creating millions of jobs.

Modi, India, Farmers
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

Although economic growth numbers have been good, lack of jobs has emerged as the biggest challenge for Modi. A report in the Business Standard newspaper says a government survey that has not been released pegs the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.

Expressing optimism that “India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Goyal said that infrastructure projects such as building roads in rural areas will boost employment.

The opposition Congress Party slammed the income support of $85 a year announced for farmers as inadequate. Saying that it is not going to be transformational, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “₹6000 [6,000 rupees, or $84] in income support for farmers boils down to ₹500 [500 rupees, or $7] per month. Is that supposed to enable them to live with the honor and dignity?”

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The Congress Party is also trying to woo voters with the promise of a minimum income for the poor if it wins the upcoming general election. The BJP has dismissed the pledge as unaffordable, while economists have expressed concern that the “competitive populism” by India’s two main parties ahead of general elections could strain the country’s finances.

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers. (VOA)