Date : 08.1.2008
President, Indian National Congress,
24, Akbar Road,
Sub : Indian National Congress-its future
Let me wish you a happy new year. I also wish you a speedy recovery of health.
I am sure the series of reverses in the state elections, more so after the Gujarat verdict, must have been a troubling thought for every Congressman. As a Congressman of long standing( I joined the party in 1961 immediately I returned to Indian from Oxford and remained so since then!) I have some special claims to write to you this letter. Rather this kind of a blunt letter, if you think so.
I worked at the AICC when it was at the 7, Jantar Mantar Road in the later Sixties when Kamaraj was the President and Atulya Ghosh was the Treasurer and Sadiq Ali was the General Secretary. Those were all exciting times when Lalbahadur Sastri and then Indira Gandhi were nominated to succeed the void created by Panditji’s passing away.
After having been a Member of the Madras Legislative Council when I also worked closely with Kamaraj during his last years out of power I was witness to so many happenings in the Congress party, betrayals and treachery and also belittling the greatmen and women once their “use” was over in the party.
All these things must be more now, than earlier! Today I read about your appointing some 34 Secretaries to the Congress party! I am amazed how the party works and what it accomplishes! With all these almost seemingly irreversible trends that must have caused lot of hearttburns but there is no indication so far the party is at all reacting! So, where does the party go from here?
I am sure that no one near you would be telling you their innermost thoughts. I can very well imagine whoever what to spoil their own political future and poltiical fortunes! None would do that and you are likely to be further isolated from the ground realities, I am sure!
So, I thought as an ardent Congressman and patriot and a nationalist, I should write to you and let me share with you what seems to be some urgent tasks the Congress President should be doing. I hope you take this letter in the right spirit for what it purports to do.
I have no personal aspirations for power whatever. I am an Oxford man and a contemporary of Dr.Manmohan Singh and my family is also Oxford educated, my son is now an IT entrepreneur and we are a well-settled and contented family and we have no personal axe to grind in writing this letter which is purely in the largest public interest only.
The Indian National Congress is party with a long legacy. It is 122 years old. As in the UK’s oldest parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, in India too the Congress party evolved into different ideological phases, constitutional and direct action phases, as well as many leaders took different stands and also led to splits many times. Yet, the party survived and evolved into what it is today.
It is the duty of leaders in positions of authority to nurture the party to serve India and to keep India’s identity as a great world power.
A glimpse into the history of the British Parliamentary history would give any leader an insight into the need to take the party on some clear ideological lines.
What is the ideological line of the Congress party today?
A secular, liberal democracy, a secular society, an open society where the freedoms and human rights of every citizen are supreme.
How to ensure this centrist line?
To staeer clear of the BJP’s rightwing extremism and also the Left’s adventurous extremisms?
This is a sensitive issue and also a big challenge. So, first you have to constitute a think-tank to which I can also contribute in whatever manner possible. Unless the Congress party has a core value basis, the rest would be only temporary responses and we would drift into a purposeless chaos.
Of course, first, you have to think of facing the general election this year or soon after. So, the biggest first hurdle for you would be what to do with Dr.Manmohan Singh. He is by public consent is now seen as the biggest liability. The biggest asset becoming a liability! Today the” Hindu “newspaper carries the Harish Khare edit page article and you can see what he says too. The PM cant be an election asset. Everything related to him is now seen as his handicap. The nuclear deal no one is enthusiastic. The Left had badly damaged the PM’s credibility, also the credibility of the party. The voters wont be bothered about the nuclear deal. Nor the voters have anything to be excited about the PM’s honesty or such virtues.
So in brief, please think of giving the PM a honourable exit at the earliest. Second, perhaps the most difficult decision would be about what to do with the Left and the DMK. These two are also seen as doing everything to weaken the Congress party in the states as well as in the rest of the states. The two also are likely to persist with alliance with the Congress for public image only. But the Congress is likely to lose whatever inherent strength it might have if it further ligns with the Left and the DMK. I would guess a bold and unhesitant step on your part would be to give the respective state units of the Congress party to work for new alliances and break the current impasse with the Left and the DMK as a godsend opportunity.
A break with the Left would open up new room for new forces to converge with the Congress.In TN too a break with the DMK, right now, would open up new room for alliance with other parties like the DDMK. Next, third, is your dilemma about projecting a Prime Ministerial candidate. Sycophants around you would push for Rahul Gandhi. But there is the clear risk about losing out to L.K.Advani’s candidature. The country wants some leader decisive enough to tackle the terror threats.
So, you have to settle for some clear indication that the Congress would tackle terrorism under a new and decisive leader. I don’t want to hazard some names but there is the need for this first step. Send out some of your close ‘advisers’ to other distant jobs and you seek for new faces from the states. For instance, there are too many faces from Karnataka, from where now I write, and all these faces are nobodies at the ground level in the state! So, you have to call for inputs from the state-level leaders who might give you some reliable advice. If I take TN from where I am based on my political activities, I see the TNCC chief is closely related to PMK chief. So, what the TNCC can give you? Only interested advice. In what way, the CWC benefits? Nothing! I did a quick survey, very incomplete but it looks that in most states the Congress doesn’t even have any reliable state PCCs!
So, you at least have to send out the 35 odd AICC office bearers to the states and get at least a latest feedback.
Fourth and last, I would advise you to adopt a Kamaraj Plan at once. So, that the long serving Delhi based busybodies, also the many ministers might be sent back to party work in preparation for the next elections. You can tell them : prove yourselves so that the party can nominate them again for ministerial berths!
Surely, the Congress party must undertake and train the party cadres in the party’s core ideologies and there must be a sense of purpose imparted to the cadres from the grassroots onwards to the state and national level.
Unless there is the ideological vision imparted and driven by a selfless group of intellectuals and others who wont aspire directly for power and offices, there is not much that can be done to counter the thrust of the BJP and the Left, both are out to weaken the Congress further as elections near.
The BJP had already damaged the party by talking of a weak leadership. There is a general feeling India needs political stability, internal stability and this the Congress must be able to ensure.
In an election foreign policy doesn’t matter much and this we have to keep in mind.
This is the minimum programme and the minimum action plan, the CWC or the AICC must be initiating at once if the Congress wants to seriously move towards the next general elections.
I feel I have unburdened my mind and this I consider my national duty in the interest of the party.
With warm regards,