Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, President,
Indian National Congress,
24, Akbar Road, New Delhi
This is a great accomplishment by any measurement and in politics this is something unusually a long innings in modern democratic society, anywhere in the world.
The day is also a moment when Congressmen of serious commitment can also look at some of the great many things that are critical for the party, the country and for the international order.
I like to draw your attention to two or three issues that agitate my mind.
One, the party’s short and long-term goals and its ideological base. As it is, the party has no ideological base or justification to continue with the sort of programmes and alliances without some deep introspection. The party is not clear as to what society it wants to bring about. Is it a liberal and secular society? It is free market economy within the larger ethical and moral basis of an equitable society? These are questions for which I don’t think the party has an answer in the current policy package as such. We seem to be mindlessly pursing a private big business-driven private sector economy where of course there is a high rate of growth, wealth creation and also some equitable distribution. But the popular perception is and it is right, that there is a skewed development with widening gap between the rich and the poor; there is a growing divide between the urban and the rural India. So, we need a new ideological formulation and this requires the top brains committed to the party. As I have said earlier, the Congress organisation is a 122 year old institution and there have been so many great many persons who adorned its ranks and we, today, can’t play with fundamental ideological issues in terms of some opportunistic talks and shallow talks.
Two, there is the question of the party’s alliances with other parties. Here too there is certain blindness on the part of the party managers and the durbaris as such. To take one example, the Congress party’s alliance in Tamil Nadu, first with ADMK and then with DMK and now too with no alternative except to fall into the trap of the DMK which has the knack of dictating terms to the Indian National Congress is quite depressing, to say the least. It is depressing for the more serious issue of aligning with a party that is a deeply anti-national, a separatist party, in fact, its separatist politics and mindset had set a trend for the other Dravidian and caste parties, even the Dalit parties talk of separatism openly.
This is a serious issue for the Indian National Congress. I say, rather bluntly: Please disengage with separatist parties. This is required in the long term goals of India. We have seen how the Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of “independence” had led to Indian separatist forces to openly talk of supporting Kosovo’s declaration. J&K politicians, even Khalistan elements, not to speak of Nagalim and other separatist forces, LTTE was bold enough to talk about it.
The Dravidian parties, more so the DMK can play mischief, if a situation arises. So, please try and form alliance with parties and forces and also bring in individuals and personalities who would guide in this area.
Also, related to the alliance building is the way the Congress is utterly unconcerned with traditions and conventions when it goes about perceiving winning elections. In Karnataka, in Bangalore, there is a simmering discontent over making the KPCC President Mr.Mallikarjun Kharge as member of the S.M.Krishna-led campaign committee. Rightly, Mr. Kharge has protested.
So, in the same way, we have to nurture the groups, social and pressure groups in the party with a deft hand and not go by arbitrary guidance and feedback.
Of course in Delhi politics, there is no definition of what morality is and what immorality is. Everyone justifies his or her action and change of beliefs and loyalties. I was in the AICC in 1967 and I know well then and now, how many who are near you, enjoy power and perks, were in the Congress all through the years!
So, you have to adopt some basic morality in going about changing people and entrusting power with people. There are a large number of older and loyal Congressmen and they are overlooked in so many appointments, be it Governors or Ambassadors. It is too much officialdom that is hurting the party’s interests in a genuine manner. This is for you to ponder over.
Third and finally, as I have repeated often in my letter to you, there must be political legitimacy and moral legitimacy in a democracy. Today, there is too much unaccountability in the system, in the party and in the government. No high Constitutional functionary bothers to even acknowledge the letters written to them. This is very dangerous. The PMO office must function as a legitimate office. So too other high offices.
The Lok Sabha Speaker, the other day had spoken out in the open about the over-reach of the judiciary in curbing the individual citizens rights. He cited the cases of Teesta Setalvad and one journalist Vijay Shekhar. Ideally, the democratic political system must offer protection and also welcome citizens’s causes and the Prime Minister ideally must be seem sensitive to individual citizens’s woes. Sadly, this is not so today. Nor the party seems to be sensitive to some grave issues. This is arbitrary politics and arbitrary governance.
There has to be certain level of transparency, certain openness and the party functionaries must be touring state capitals and must be seen as accessible to public representations.
Anyway, these are some of my thoughts and I hope the historic role of the Congress party is kept up to its high standards of the past.
With warm regards,
NB: I was requested to deliver the Kasturba Gandhi Endowment Lecture at the Gandhigram Rural University, near Madurai. I have sent the video of the lecture. Please see the same.
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