Monday, November 20, 2017

Let the charity begin at home


          The fundamental strength of a mature democracy lies in the fact that how its elementary units—the political parties—function internally.Indian political system seems averse to follow transparency in choosing the leadership, in deciding the strategies and in giving the fair opportunities to its members for participation at all levels. Therefore, I would welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to media that it must focus on the issues related to inner party democracy. Modi wants a nationwide discussion on how true is the intra party democracy in different political parties.

          When Modi mentions ‘inner party democracy’ he wants the nation to perceive that the Congress party does not believe in internal democracy and BhartiyaJanta Party has an internal mechanism which ensures total transparency in its functioning. Congress is accused of dynastic rule. What is dynasty? Dictionary says it is a sequence of rulers from the same family, stock or group.

The history of dynastic rules in India takes us back to the year 424 BC when we had Nanda dynasty that existed till around 321 BC. Then cameMauryan dynasty, Kanva dynasty, Satvahan dynasty, Chola dynasty, Kushana dynasty, Gupta dynasty and so on. We have also heard about Chalukya dynasty, Rajput, Parmar, Yadav and Solanki dynasties which were there in 8th century and ran till12-13th century. Mughal, Maratha and Travancore dynasties also played their roles from 11th to 19th century.

          Prime Minister Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and every third leader of BJP spare no occasion to raise the slogan against ‘Nehru dynasty’. Has there really been any Nehru dynasty? Let’s revisit certain facts. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s grandfatherGangadhar Nehru was the Kotwal of Delhi and had a very short lifespan of only 34 years. He died after three years of 1857 rebellion against British rule. Jawaharlal Nehru’s father Motilal Nehru was his third son. The eldest son Bansidhar Nehru used to work in the judicial department and because of his postings at different places most of the time, he was practically cut off from the family. Second, one Nandlal Nehru was the Dewan of Khetri state of then Rajputana ofRajsthan. Khetri’s most famous contribution is to give Vivekanand to the world. It was Maharaja of KhetriAjit Singh who gave Narendra a new name Vivekanand and pursued him to attend Chicago religious conference in new attire.

Congress party took birth in 1885—24 years after Motilal Nehru was born. Motilal actively participated in freedom movement and became the president of Congress party for the first time at Amritsar session in 1919. It was 34 years after Congress was formed and when Motilal’s age was 58. When he held this position again at Calcutta session in 1928, Motilal was 67. He died at the age of 70. That means, Congress party had no Nehru as its president for initial 34 years.

          Jawaharlal Nehru became the president of Congress party in 1929 at Lahore session for the first time for one year. After 6 years he again got this position at Lucknow session in 1936 and got another tenure at Faizapur session in 1937. So, during 62 years of pre-independent India, only two members of Nehru family held the topmost position in Congress and that too for a total period of six years.

45 leaders became the president of Congress party in these 62 years and out of that for 55 years non-Nehrus headed the party. J.B. Kraplani was heading Congress in 1947 when India got independence. In 70 years of independent India, Congress party was ruled for 34 years by persons who were not from Nehru clan. 16 persons have held the president’s chair and only four of them belonged to Nehru-Gandhi family. Nehru-Gandhis have occupied this position only for 39 years in 132 years of Congress’ history. There has been no prime minister with Nehru-Gandhi surname in last 28 years in our country despite the fact that there were Congress governments for 15 years during this period.

 Now come to the legacy of other Bhartiya Janata Party. Though BJP was established in 1980, it is a remake of Jan Sangh which was founded by Shyama Prasad Mukharjee on 21 October 1951. Jan Sangh merged itself with Janta Party in 1977 and incarnated as BJP after Janta Party broke away. BJP has had 10 presidents in last 37 years. Lal Krishna Adwani remained president for longest period of 13 years. Atal Behari Vajpayee held the position for 6 years and Rajnath Singh for 5 years.

In addition to this, during 26 years of Jan Sangh, there were 14 persons who took turns to occupy the highest seat in the organisation. Two of these 14 include Vajpayee and Advani. Vajpayee was Jan Sangh president for five years from 1968 to 1973 and Advani was the head for four years from 1973 to 1977. Thus, it was this duo who controlled Jan Sangh-BJP politics for 39 years out of 66 years of its existence—that is two-third of the total time.

Left wing Communist Party-Marxist is no different. It took birth in 1964 and had only five Secretary Generals in last 53 years. Sunderaiyya occupied the seat for 14 years and so did Namboodaripad, again for 14 years. Then cameHarkishanSungh Surjit who remained Secretary General for 13 years. Prakash Karat headed leading CPM for 10 years. Another communist outfit CPI also shares 92 years of its history with similar pattern.

Take the case of Dravidian parties. They have the roots in Periyar’s and Anna Durai politics which ultimately gave birth to DMK in 1969 and AIADMK in 1972. M. Karunanidhi has been heading DMK for 48 years since 1969. M.G. Ramchandranremained AIADMK chief for 15 years till 1987. A succession war went on for two years from 1987 to 1989 and J. Jaylalitha became the president of AIADMK  who is occupied the post for 27 years.

You may also look at the sons of soil who swear by Ram Manohar Lohia’s socialism every alternate day. Samjawadi Party was born two days after the birth day of Mahatma Gandhi in 1992 and Mulayam Singh Yadav has been holding on to its president’s post from day one for 24 years. BahujanSamaj Party also follows the path. Kanshi Ram estalishedBSP 30 years back in 1984. He remained the supremo till 1990 when he fell ill. Present supremoMayawati practically ran a proxy rule for 13 years and took over after the death of Kanshi Ram in 2003. She is BSP president for 14 years, but in reality for 27 years.

BalaSahebThakre gave birth to Shiv Sena 48 years ago on 19 June 1966 and remained its chief for 38 years before appointing his son UdhhavThakre the chief in 2004. Uddhav is running the show for last 13years. Navin Patnaik founded Biju janta Dal 20 years back in 1997. He remains its president since then. Sharad Pawar formed Nationalist Congress Party 18 years back in 1999 and does not want anybody else to enjoy the highest post. The topmost position in National Conference of Abdullahs also changes hands between father and son.

In the backdrop of this scenario, I have no other option than to trust that Modi is a well-meaning person when he calls for inner democracy in the political parties and believe that he would be able to encourage the freedom of expression within BJP steel-gripped by his man-Friday Amit Shah. As charity begins at home, I am sure, the coming days will see a more accommodating BJP to the views of its leaders such as Lal Krishna Adwani, Murli Manohar Joshi, ArunShourie, Yashwant Sinha, Shatrudhna Sinhaand Kirti Azad.

Author is a senior journalist and a national office bearer of the Congress party.

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