Congress Vs Congress’s Age-Old Struggle Is Once Again Out In The Sidhu-Channi Tussle

According to those unfamiliar with the circumstance, the Congress power struggle in Chandigarh wasn’t just about one-upmanship but about highlighting the role of the state Congress chief in a party government.

The media has focused on Navjot Singh Sidhu’s rather brazen and unilateral resignation as state party head after the newly formed cabinet was accused of not adhering to noble principles of public integrity, corruption-free governance, etc. The goal was to boost his reputation as a future chief ministerial candidate.

Indira & Culture Of Supreme Leader

Sidhu’s approach prevailed after logjams, impasses, and backroom maneuvering. His resignation was withdrawn. There is a perception that it’s an interference from the executive branch. During the Jawaharlal Nehru era, an internal tussle developed between the Congress political executive and its organizational wings. The Congress became all-powerful after India gained independence. Congress Parivar executives frequently traded charges of corruption and indiscipline during the ‘cold war’ between government officials and party members.

The AICC president Acharya Kripalani, who had a towering personality, refused to provide guidance and advice to Nehru and his government, and the tail did not wag the dog. An AICC chief known for his Soft Hindutva views, Purushottam Das Tandon had been promoted to the party chief position in 1950. The Congress Working Committee (CWC) of the Congress was humbled by Nehru’s request to surrender their resignations and Tandon was assured not to challenge him.

It is also believed that Nehru’s daughter, Indira, engaged party leadership several times. The party’s K Kamaraj and S Nijalingappa appointed her as prime minister when Lal Bahadur Shastri died while in office. She made sure there would be no place for them in the party, even when the Congress syndicate tried to dictate terms. Assemblies usually have a president who plays second fiddle to the government’s top official since the Indira era.

The party president of the AICC (1961) said at the Bhavnagar session that she was suggesting that people in power would voluntarily relinquish their offices and volunteer for organizational work. The Congress organization should rely on their wisdom and years of experience in handling the information so that they can move the organization in better directions.

Rather than a neutral, professional workforce, Indira Gandhi and her party sought a ‘committed bureaucracy’ by 1972. Shankar Dayal Sharma offered these thoughts at the 1972 AICC meeting in Kolkata: “The training, the background, and the mental makeup of the entire bureaucracy might have served the colonial powers, but it has no bearing on India today.”

As time progressed, the Congress was dominated by an individual leader’s loyalty, which became essential for survival. With Sanjay Gandhi acting as an extraconstitutional authority, internal democracy and freedom of dissent were further stifled. The political economy of the Indian state is a book written by Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne H. Rudolph that says that by the time Sanjay died in June 1980, the party system had deinstitutionalized. 

The Balance Shifts

It was Nehru, Indira, and Rajiv Gandhi who triumphed in the tussle during their terms, but in 2004, when Sonia Gandhi took office in the Congress-led UPA government, the equation had to be reversed. They devised a strategy that would make the prime minister less powerful than her no matter how competent she was.

Congress vs Congress's Age-Old Struggle Is Once Again Out In The Sidhu-Channi Tussle

The Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) is the party’s parliamentary wing, which is led by Sonia Gandhi. Pranab Mukherjee offered a remedy in hopes of ensuring Sonia’s authority. CCP and AICC both have separate constitutions. In sub-clause ‘C’, it is the chairperson, not party leaders, that would select the party leaders for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, as well as deputy leaders and chief whips. The chairman shall be able to name the leader of the party to lead the government, if necessary.

In contrast to Sonia and her team’s attempt to establish the party’s supremacy during the UPA era, the Manmohan Singh era saw an infusion of professionals at the expense of politicians. The decisions were made by Kapil Sibal, Jairam Ramesh, Sam Pitroda, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, C. Rangarajan, and dozens of other hand-picked officials. Many of these professionals served in the cabinet, others in the Planning Commission (now Niti Aayog), National Advisory Council, Finance Commission, Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council, Knowledge Commission, or as interlocutors for informal discussions with the US, Pakistan, and China.

The result was that traditional politicians such as Sushil Kumar Shinde, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kamal Nath, and Ambika Soni, who appeared to carry huge portfolios in reality, played a relatively small role during the UPA era. Highly skilled professionals with the same world vision as Manmohan took over their places discreetly. Unlike Rajiv Gandhi’s sincere attempt at professionalism within the party and government, almost nobody complained about Manmohan Singh.

Sonia Gandhi worked extensively in disaster relief and crisis management as UPA chairman and Congress leader from 2004 to 2014. In her role as head of the NAC, she tried to cater to rural and urban aspirations by integrating the expertise of NGOs with that of professionals. NAC’s limited success was negated by the strength of traditional Congress leadership.

The Philosopher-Politician Equation

The Congress lacked the intellectual capability to influence government and bureaucracy, resulting in its declining popularity. In the present state of Congress, even the claim that they are guiding the king (politician) would be laughed at. Years ago, Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya, who lost the Congress presidency contest to Subhas Chandra Bose in 1939, formed the ‘philosopher and politician’ equation by equating the Congress ideology and the Indian society. 

Congress vs Congress's Age-Old Struggle Is Once Again Out In The Sidhu-Channi Tussle

Congress is the life-giving ideology of the nation, as he told AICC delegates in Jaipur in 1948. In furthering those doctrines, they are pumped through the arteries of the national government, where they become somewhat tarnished after implementation and are handed back to Congress for refinement. It is the ideology constantly discussed by the public and constantly revived through the public opinion that is then channeled by the Congress through the government again in a renovated form, that is how the Congress and the government interact and relate. The latter has influence and the former power.

Unlike the past, the Congress of the present no longer shows any sign of this lofty relationship between philosophers and politicians. While both P V Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri faced limitations in their leadership, they each ushered in inner-party democracy by conducting the CWC and party polls respectively in 1992 and 1997. Those democrats are little or not at all regarded by today’s party leaders and in-house historians.

Although the party leader, Sonia Gandhi has struggled to streamline the party functioning despite being the longest-serving AICC chief. Over the past 23 years, Sonia has avoided creating the party’s all-powerful Central Parliamentary Board (CPB). In the Congress constitution, the powers to award tickets for the assembly, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha reside with the Central Planning Board, but Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have usurped these powers without constituting the body.

Nandana Valsan

Nandana Valsan is a Journalist/Writer by profession and an 'India Book of Records holder from Kochi, Kerala. She is pursuing MBA and specializes in Journalism and Mass Communication. She’s best known for News Writings for both small and large Web News Media, Online Publications, Freelance writing, and so on. ‘True Love: A Fantasy Bond’ is her first published write-up as a co-author and 'Paradesi Synagogue: History, Tradition & Antiquity' is her second successful write-up in a book as a co-author in the National Record Anthology. She has won Millenia 15 Most Deserving Youth Award 2022 in the category of Writer. A lot of milestones are waiting for her to achieve. Being a Writer, her passion for helping readers in all aspects of today's digital era flows through in the expert industry coverage she provides.

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