In a severe criticism of the Congress, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson and former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi has said that the party will have to undertake an “ego-less annihilation of its ego” and reposition of faith and trust in the peoplehood of India, if it has to bounce back. While noting that the Congress has returned to power every time it was ousted, he said it was not because it had sobered, but more because the alternative had floundered.
Gandhi also targeted the loyalty culture in the Congress, using the controversy over Governors as the context. “I cannot understand why Governors should place themselves in the position of being asked to go. There was not one Governor appointed by Jawaharlal Nehru who anyone would have asked to go. They were such eminent people…Each of those Governors were outstanding people. If they are asked to go today, it is because they are there for short term reasons. Reasons of loyalty…If Governors don’t want to overstay, no government would undermine them and ask them to go. But if they become immobile gold then there is a market for bullion outside,” he said.
Gandhi, delivering the M C Davar centenary memorial lecture on “50 Years After Nehru: Challenges Ahead”, also lamented that the Congress never gave due recognition to the constellation of leaders around Gandhi like Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Subhas Chandra Bose. “While we revel in the glory of Jawaharlal Nehru, let us just not make a cult of Nehru,” he said, pointing out that Nehru himself resented this. “It is a matter of factual record that the Congress has not given those others in the constellation, not during Nehru’s life time but in the post-Nehru period, the recognition that was due to them. Let us learn from Nehru how not to iconise Nehru and how to be fair and equitable in the acknowledgments of history,” he said.
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“And if today the name and legacy of Vallabhai Patel has been expropriated, it is because from his own home — the Congress — he has virtually been externed. This is a fact of history and we must not disown it. The misuse of Patel legacy comes from the disuse of the Patel legacy in the Congress,” he said. The Congress today, he said, is historically challenged and “its amnesia has become the BJP’s gift to recall”.
Gandhi was heavily critical of the state of affairs in the Congress, arguing self-criticism and frank criticism were missing in the party. “Feroze Gandhi’s criticism of the Nehru government was a stuff of the legend. If in the last five years, had there been one Congress MP even with a fraction of Feroze Gandhi’s guts, there would have been a different electoral result in 2014. But no, Feroze Gandhi is not a name that is invoked in the Congress,” he said.
Gandhi said that the election results in the last two decades show that the Congress and the country are not co-extensive. “The country is larger than politics, politics is larger than party politics, party politics is larger than individual parties and individual parties are larger than the individuals who run those parties. This is something which we must acknowledge and appreciate. But does the Congress acknowledge it? The BJP would shout from their house top that this is the case…But if the Congress were to acknowledge it then the BJP would not know where to look. But no. The Congress thinks it is meant for the peacock throne, from which but alas the peacock has long since flown,” he said.
Gandhi, however, said Congress’s decimation has not dealt it a death blow. But the Congress can only come back if it calls into question its position on a few things. “The most important of this has to be an ego-less annihilation of its ego and an equal reposing of trust and faith in the larger entities of the nation in the peoplehood of India,” he said.
And crucial to the ego-less annihilation of its ego, he said, is that the Congress “should be able to appear before the people of India not as pristine principle but as an instrument of the people’s will”.