The Dynastic Roots of the Congress Party

Jawahar Lal Nehru was made a General Secretary of the Congress Party in 1924. He was not elected to this office, by virtue of his competence and popularity. Instead he was foisted from above on the recommendation of Mahatma Gandhi, brushing aside the claims of many seniors.


After four years, in the year 1928, Motilal Nehru asked Mahatma Gandhi through a letter to appoint his son Jawahar Lal Nehru as the Congress President, for the sacrifices done by his family. In 1929 he repeated this demand more vigorously. This time Gandhi decided to compensate Nehru family for its sacrifices in the cause of freedom struggle. But out of eighteen Provincial Congress Committees, only three had recommended the name of Jawahar Lal for the august office. Majority were in favour of Sardar Patel. Brushing aside the majority vote, Gandhi pleaded very strongly with the delegates in the Congress session in favour of Jawahar Lal. He said :- “Seniors had their innings. Future struggle is to be carried on by young men and women ..... Jawahar Lal has all the qualities for which he deserves to be recommended ...... For his bravery, determination, behaviour, honesty and patience, he is held in high esteem by the youth of this country. He has come in contact with farmers and workers. He is close to European politics .... they (Youth) would consider it as an award to them if Jawahar Lal is elected... And they would regret it as a proof of belief of the nation in its youth.... Give them an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of this trust.”


Thousands of families had sacrificed their all in freedom struggle. Hundreds of young men had opted for gallows. These families and heroes remained unknown and unsung. But Nehru family was lucky. Because of Gandhi’s patronage it got a reward for its ‘sacrifices’ so soon. Jawahar Lal was made Congress President in 1929, violating the will of majority. In the preceding year, Motilal Nehru was congress president. With Jawahar Lal on the Congress throne in succeeding year, the tradition of dynastic succession took roots in the Congress Party, as also of the disapproval of the will of majority.


Once again in 1936, the majority of the provincial Congress Committees had favoured Sardar Patel for Congress Presidentship. Once again, Congress negated the majority, and chose Jawahar Lal as Congress President honouring the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi.


In the Congress set up, there was no respect for majority or democracy. Therefore, the same story of negationing majority was repeated time and again. As always Provincial Congress Committees chose Sardar Patel to be the Congress President in 1946, and as always the crown was put on the head of Jawahar Lal Nehru on the intervention of Mahatma Gandhi. In his attempt to justify his action that negated the will of majority, Mahatma Gandhi said that on this occasion, when negotiations are going on with the British for the independence of the country, Jawahar Lal will be more suitable for the office, because he (Nehru) and Englishmen spoke in ‘common idiom’.


Durga Das in his book “India from Curzon to Nehru and After” writes “most of the members of Working Committee were not altogether happy. They preferred Sardar Patel who his able to deal better with Jinnah, and even at this late stage, ensure the integrity and stability of the subcontinent, Critical hours lay ahead and the Sardar’s rugged realism, they argued, would provide a safe-shield’’. He further writes, “I asked Gandhi for his reaction. He readily agreed that Patel would have proved a better negotiator and organiser as Congress President, but he added... Jawahar will not take second place...” Thus it is evident that Nehru, though he lacked the organisational and administrative qualities of Patel, was made to head the Interim Government because he spoke English better than others in the Congress Party and also because he was not prepared to take ‘second place’. Patel, unlike Nehru did not have Gandhi as a god-father. Obviously democracy did not have a place in the scheme of things; it was only of cosmetic value in the Indian National Congress.


On the expiry of his two terms, Washington, the first President of United States had refused to accept a third term. He thought, it would not be in the interest of American democracy, if the same person continues to occupy its highest office for long years. Nehru did not worry himself to create such a tradition in Indian democracy. This enabled Nehru to be the Prime Minister of India till his end. Only death could remove him from the Prime Minister’s throne.


On Jawahar Lal’s becoming President in 1936, Gandhi wrote him a confidential letter dated 15th July, 1936:- “You are in office ... but you are not in power yet. To put you in the office was an attempt to find you in power, quicker than you would otherwise have been. Anyway that was at the back of my mind when I suggested your name for the crown of thorns. Keep it on though the head be bruised.” (Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi; Vol. 63, Page 145).


Jawahar Lal Nehru followed the advice of Gandhi in both letter and spirit. He refused to accept the moral responsibility and resign, for debacle in wake of Chinese invasion in 1962. Instead he made Krishna Menon the sacrificial goat and made him to resign. His head was badly bruised and bleeding, yet he, keeping to the advice of his god-father Gandhi refused to part with the crown of thorns, till he breathed his last.

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