With Congress in power in just two states and the AAP being looked upon as a viable alternative to the party nationally, it’s time to look at a statement frequently made by Prashant Kishor. The electoral strategist has said that the idea and space represented by Congress are essential for Indian democracy.
Over the years, there have been vast differences between what Congress is supposed to represent and what it actually represents. The INC was initially set up in 1885 to bring together a group of educated individuals on a common platform to influence policymaking and demand more representation for Indians as a whole. From being a party that mostly consisted of a demographic of urban upper-class Hindu males, the Congress under the stewardship of Mahatma Gandhi transformed into an organisation representing every Indian be they be rich or poor, educated or uneducated, Brahmin or Dalit, Hindu or Muslim, etc.
The Congress stood for an India which was founded on secular principles, which ceaselessly worked for the well-being of the country by eliminating poverty, assuring under-privileged sections of society of upward social mobility, improving the global standing of India in all spheres be they economic, technological, military, cultural, social, etc.
The INC followed a system of merit in which the most capable individuals were elected to positions of power. Between 1947 and 1969, the INC could be called a ‘school of democracy’.
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The ‘new’ Congress
In 2022, Congress isn’t what it once was. As with every organisation, no matter how noble its motives are in the initial stages, decadence and corruption often seep in eventually. To a sizeable majority of Indians, Congress represents the epitome of political corruption who cannot look beyond the Gandhi family though it is dragging the party down.
This culture of corruption and nepotism seeped in after Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister. She abolished internal-party democracy, promoted sycophants to positions of power, and made her son her de-facto second in command. The same culture continued under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi and his widow. It’s quite unfortunate for the country that an illegitimate political family has reduced India’s Grand Old Party to a shell of what it once was.
Over time, the ideology of the Congress has corroded and it has just become ‘one of the parties’ in our political system. Unlike in the olden times in which Congress actively promoted Hindu-Muslim harmony, party leaders today only pay lip service to secularism which they are bound to uphold, and are primarily busy feathering their own nests.
Prashant Kishor says that ideally in India, 40 per cent of the vote share should go to the Congress, 40 per cent to the BJP, and 20 per cent to regional parties. The 60 per cent of Indians who don’t vote for the BJP consider the Congress the ideal party of governance. The Congress’s vote share is now at a measly 19.5 per cent.
To this 60 per cent, the Congress remains the party who gave India her freedom, whose leaders died for our nation, who gave India her Constitution based on liberal, secular, and progressive values, and stood for the upliftment of Indians in the bottom most economic and social strata of society. The party gave India her own independent foreign policy, led several military victories, nurtured institutions which were founded on the ideals of democratic principles, developed India’s infrastructure and industries.. It created the ‘temples of modern India’ including the IITs and IIMs, ISRO, DRDO, AIIMS, which promoted the holistic growth of our nation.
This is the faction of Indians who stand against everything the BJP represents. They believe that the hate, bigotry, and culture of exclusion that the BJP represents is the antithesis of everything India’s founding fathers stood for. However, it’s just that this demographic just doesn’t vote for the Congress anymore because of its incompetent leadership.
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Even after being out of power for eight years, the Congress hasn’t gotten its act together because it doesn’t serve the interests of the Gandhis who surround themselves with a coterie who possess no political clout of their own.
Regarding the future, in the unfortunate event that the Congress is annihilated nationally, there will always be a space for another political party that represents the Congress’s founding principles. We, as Indians, are deeply attached to that ideology, and hence always look forward towards electing a party that represents those very principles. The values of secularism and religious pluralism are part of our DNA, and it is what gives India its foundation and vibrance.
The author is a student at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Views are personal