Justice Markandey Katju-
The Congress-JDS alliance government in Karnataka has collapsed, and this may well portend the fate of the Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in the near future. Except for Punjab, Congress hardly exists anywhere in India, and we may soon see a truly ‘ Congress mukt Bharat ‘. How did this happen?
After Independence Congress came to power almost everywhere in India, riding on its reputation as the party which led the freedom struggle and got us Independence. But the Congress leaders soon realized that memories fade, and one cannot keep getting votes forever on this reputation. So they devised a clever formula based on caste and religious combinations for this purpose.
We may consider UP in this connection, particularly since it is the biggest state in India in terms of population, and has the largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha.
There the formula devised by Congress was this: Hindu upper castes ( Brahmins, Rajputs, Vaishyas, Bhumihars, Kayasthas, etc who were collectively about 20% of the population ) + Muslims ( who are about 18% ) + Scheduled Castes and Tribes ( who are about 22% ). This simple arithmetic gave the Congress almost 60% of the votes, resulting in Congress sweeping the polls, winning almost every seat both in the Lok Sabha and the state assembly elections for decades. Economically Congress represented the big business class in India, so there was no shortage of money.
Over time, the SCs formed their own political party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, led by Kanshi Ram and Mayawati. The Muslims left Congress en masse after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 and went over to the Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav. And the Hindu upper castes went over to the BJP. Something similar happened in Bihar. So now the Congress represents no caste or religion in UP ( or Bihar ). It may win one or two seats, but that is about all. Elections in most Indian states are largely based on caste and communal vote banks, and the Congress represents none in UP.
There is no ideology in most Congressmen, no principles, just a desire for power and pelf. Of course, the Congress professes secularism, but that is just to get Muslim votes. It also professes ( or at one time professed ) socialism, but that was only a ploy.
Pt Nehru was no doubt a modern-minded leader, and credit must be given to him for building a heavy industrial base and achieving limited industrialization of India after Independence and spreading education. But thereafter his daughter Indira Gandhi, a mastermind of ‘realpolitik’, in her lust for power almost destroyed all state institutions and imposed a fake Emergency in 1975. Congress leaders are raising a big hue and cry about horse-trading and destabilizing state governments after the events in Karnataka, but was not Indira Gandhi doing exactly that e.g, in Andhra Pradesh when NT Rama Rao was in power, or in Haryana when Bhajan Lal crossed over to Congress with all his MLAs ?
The leadership of the Congress was grabbed by the Nehru-Gandhi family, and to survive in the party a member had to kowtow before them. As long as one did that, corruption and other misdeeds by party members were tolerated and overlooked, and of course, the ‘ royal family ‘ enjoyed the lion’s share of the loot ( one wonders how much money it has stacked in foreign banks ).
So all this talk of a revival of Congress is mere moonshine and drivel. When a party goes to the polls it must offer something positive to the electorate. The BJP offered Hindutva ( which one may agree or disagree with ). Congress has nothing to offer.
There is the talk of a revival of Congress under Priyanka Gandhi. But what has this ‘ barsaati medhak ‘ ( as she called herself ) to offer to the people ( except doing some dramatics as she did recently over the Sonbhadra killings ) ? Does she have any ideas of how to solve the massive problems India is facing e.g, massive poverty, record unemployment, widespread farmers distress, appalling level of child malnourishment, etc? Not that I have heard of. All she has is her claim of belonging to India’s ‘ royal family ‘, and being the wife of Robert Vadra, about whom the less said the better.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]