by M K Vidyaranya
Majority of Congressmen might not know that late Mahatma Gandhi , the “Father of the Nation just was a 16 year old boy when first meeting of the Indian National Congress was held in Bombay during 28–31, December, 1885. under the leadership of one of the founder of the Indian National Congress (INC), Allan Octavian Hume (ICS), a British National.
A O Hume, was a member of the British Imperial Civil Service and a political reformer was one of the founders of the INC that later resulted in Indian independence movement. On 28 December 1885, the Indian National Congress was founded at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in Bombay, with only 72 delegates in attendance. Hume assumed office as the General Secretary, and Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee of Calcutta was elected President. Besides Hume, two additional British members (both Scottish civil servants) were members of the founding group, William Wedderburn and Justice (later, Sir) John Jardine. The other members were mostly Hindus from the Bombay and Madras Presidencies.
The ordinary people of India were not informed of or concerned about its existence on the whole, for the Congress never attempted to address the issues of poverty, lack of health care, social oppression, and the prejudiced negligence of the people’s concerns by British authorities. The perception of bodies like the Congress was that of an elitist, then educated and wealthy people’s institution.
Dadabhoy Nairoji; the first ever Asian to be a British Member of Parliament wrote many articles and gave speeches on the plight of India and played an important role in the formation of the Indian National Congress along with leaders like W. C. Bonnerjee, Pherozeshah Mehta, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale ,Lala Lajpat Roy,Bala Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal (Pal Bal Pal ) and many more.
From its foundation by 72 individuals with the active help by A.O Hume, a retired British officer, until the time of independence of India on 15 August 1947, the Indian National Congress was considered to be the largest and most prominent Indian public organization, and central and defining influence of the Indian Independence Movement.
After independence of India in 1947, Mahatma Gandhi asked the leaders to dissolve Indian National Congress and form new organisation to govern the nation. Had Mahatma Gandhi been alive today, he would have joined hands with Baba Ramdev and toured India in protest against rampant corruption and mismanagement of the affairs in the country,” says Venkat Ram Kalyanam, the one and only witness to the assassination of the Father of the Nation on January 30, 1948.
95-year-old Kalyanam surprised one with his sharp memory three years back. He was just three feet away from Mahatma Gandhi when Nathuram Godse shot at the former from close quarters. Stating that Gandhi wanted the disbandment of the Indian National Congress immediately after the Independence, Kalyanam said the Mahatma wanted to bury the party once and forever.
“Gandhi had asked all the top Congress leaders to dissolve the party and form a new organisation to serve the people. He told them that the task of INC was to fight for the freedom and liberation of India from the shackles of the British which was achieved by latter handing over power to the Indians,” said Kalyanam.
Now the question was how to govern the country. For that to happen, Gandhi suggested the formation of a society society was to have named Lok Sevak Sangh which the Mahatma conceived as a one of its kind organization in the world.
“Gandhi said that India was a poor country and hence we cannot afford to pay high salaries to government servants. He wanted all inequalities to go . according to Gandhiji, ours was a country of paradoxes. Rich are too rich while the poor are too poor. He had suggested that the salaries and allowances of government servants and representatives of legislatures and parliament should be fixed as Rs.500/-. The Mahatma also demanded that governors and the ambassadors of the country set an example by leading simple life. He had suggested a set of dos and don’ts for the country’s governance,” had said Kalyanam.
Congress under Indira suffered its earliest set back in 1967, when it won lesser number of seats at the Center and even lost in a few states.Then Congress under the same Indira went on to win a massive mandate in 1971, but then received one of the worst drubbings in 1977 when it was thrown out of power.But that was not the end. Congress and Indira staged a come back within a very short time in 1980.The party under Rajiv Gandhi then scored an unprecedented victory in 1984 on the sympathy wave following assassination of Indira Gandhi but managed to squander almost all of it in 1989.
But that was not the end.The party which was struggling during the first phase of polls in 1991made a turn around in the later phases,which was triggered this time by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and rode back to power. But despite scripting one of the biggest economic recoveries in the country’s history under the Naraimha Rao-Manmohan Singh duo, the party once again lost the mandate in 1996, and for the first time remained in political wilderness foralmost a decade.
But that was not the end. Just as the political pundits were drafting their obituary for the party, the Congress staged a totally unheralded come back as the major partner of UPA under Sonia Gandhi in 2004, out shining the India Shining campaign of the redoubtable Vajpayee led NDA government. This time the Congress did not have any trappings of power or any sympathy wave in its favor, and it was only the complacency and utter insensitivity of the NDA campaign managers which helped the Congress resurgence. And more surprisingly the Congress/ UPA managed to repeat this victory and retained power in 2009.
So, the question actually should more correctly be why people rejected Congress and the Nehru-Gandhis in 2014 general elections. And this was due to various reasons like anti incumbency, corruption scandals, availability of an attractive alternative in the persona of Narendra Modi, and the effective use of online social media for influencing the young, first time voters who hitherto were disconnected from politics and were even not very keen on voting during the earlier eras.But political wisdom and past track record would caution one against concluding that this rejection of Congress and the
Nehru-Gandhis as either final or irreversible. Elections in all democracies are like roller coaster rides. And the Congress,like the proverbial cat, might yet manage to have nine lives ,opine political observers. EOM