Internal democracy is the core strength of Congress, we have to forget mutual differences and learn to work together
Serious efforts have again started to create a democratic space within Congress. The election of a president from outside the Gandhi-Nehru family shows a desire to free Congress from the charge of being a family party. The credit for this goes to Rahul Gandhi.
Mridula Mukherjee: Congress general convention is being organized in Chhattisgarh. After a long time, elections have been held for the post of President in Congress. A broad strategy for the future will be prepared in this convention. What it means very clearly is that Congress has started repairing the structure of the internal democracy of the party. It is high time that the tradition and noble values of internal democracy of the Congress are recalled again. India’s freedom struggle gives us many such examples, through which we can understand the basic tradition of Congress in the true sense.
Take the relations of big leaders of the freedom struggle. All the big leaders had mutual differences based on their ideology, but they had the generosity to work unitedly for the larger interest. Despite the ideological differences between those veteran leaders, the feeling of mutual harmony remained the basic test of internal democracy. For example, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel were the foremost leaders of the freedom movement. Under his leadership, Congress achieved independence from the British. Gandhiji was the biggest leader among them. Although all three leaders were very different in background and personality, they had much in common that was able to keep them together. In this spirit, he strengthened the roots of internal democracy within the Congress.
Gandhiji made this democratic space within the Congress more extensive. They welcomed any idea under the Congress umbrella that was willing to help them on the anti-colonial front. Because of this, Congress evolved into an organization where people from a very wide ideological spectrum, from right to left, could work together. They could openly argue with each other, and fight. They could even barricade themselves against each other, but they could unite keeping all differences aside when the bugle sounded against colonialism.
Today, serious efforts have again started to create a democratic space within Congress. The election of a president from outside the Gandhi-Nehru family shows a desire to free Congress from the charge of being a family party. The credit for this goes to Rahul Gandhi who, like his mother, chose the path of politics of renunciation. The new system has freed them from day-to-day work to a great extent. Now he will be able to pay more attention to ideology and popular movement. The election of Mallikarjun Kharge, in principle, sent out a message that democratic space was being promoted in the party. The Congress will have to forget its differences and learn to work in the spirit of growing together.
Rahul Gandhi is right in worrying that the old party structure is no longer capable of delivering the expected election results. He also believes that ideological struggle should now be given priority. All this augurs well for the future of Congress. Elections within the party are likely to elect people of all viewpoints and strategic differences. With this, apart from providing a platform for all the groups to express their opinion, the ability to work in a democratic spirit will develop within them. In the absence of internal democracy, all factions of the party are forced to conspire among themselves and pull each other’s legs.
The Congress has for a long time expressed its commitment to hold elections at all levels. It would be good if some important decisions are taken in this regard at this convention. It will not be beneficial for the party to withdraw from elections not only in the Congress Working Committee but also at other levels. When people are elected, they cannot say that they are not heard or represented within the party. Older leaders have more ability to influence elections. They may also resort to bogus voting to get more votes politically, socially and economically. Despite this risk, there is no substitute for internal democracy.
The history of the Congress before independence shows that at times the electoral system was very helpful in resolving the differences between the leaders on highly controversial issues. Then all the parties used to express their opinion openly. The decision whether to launch the non-cooperation movement or not was taken by open voting. Thirteen communist leaders had voted against Gandhiji’s proposal in protest of the Quit India Movement, but Gandhiji congratulated them first, as he wanted to develop the Congress as a democratic organization.
If seen from the historical point of view, Congress has been the guardian party of democracy in India. Communist parties have never been democratic because of democratic centralism, then everyone knows the attitude of right-wing parties towards democracy. In this way, the Congress in India has the responsibility of keeping alive the basic idea of democracy, it also needs to reiterate its commitment to it by returning to the old method of internal democracy. Now, like colonialism, communal forces have taken a monstrous form. To counter them, the Congress will first have to put its house in order.
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