Every time there is a discussion on dynastic politics in India, it has become a fashion to have a mention of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Without delving deeper into this aspect, it cannot be made clear to the political adversaries of the Congress party whether their families were involved in dynasty politics or selfless sacrifice and dedication towards the nation. We cannot ensure however that even clarity in this issue would silence the loud-mouthed resentment against them, yet a coherent discussion has to be triggered to determine whether their families worked for political favours, power or whether they sacrificed their lives for the sake of the nation.
Out of the 15 prime ministers who ruled India since the time of independence, only Nehru, Indira and Rajiv belonged to the same family. In the seven decades of Indian politics, the Gandhi family was involved in active and progressive politics. Those who are involved in diabolical and fiendish politics must stop mudslinging and note that after 1989 not even a central minister emerged from this family. After Rajiv Gandhi, for over three decades the family has never held any power or position but has been selflessly serving the people of this land. In this context, the political analysts must consider how illogical it is to attribute the term ‘dynasty politics’ to this family.
Have we forgotten the fact that Nehru was imprisoned 9 times and spent 3259 days in jail during the freedom struggle? His entire family put people and nation before personal life and pleasure to fight for the nation and free it from the clutches of the British. Indira Gandhi spent a lonely childhood without the company of her parents. As a child she herself was actively involved in the freedom movement and founded the “Bal Charkha Sangh” and “Vanar Sena” to unite and gear up the children for the cause. It is a result of this kind of dedication that the nation embraced this family as its own and upon attaining freedom Nehru got elected as the Prime Minister in the democratic process. At that time India was in abject poverty.
Nehru’s contribution towards uniting all the 500 plus scattered provinces of India to give birth to the world’s largest democratic, secular and republic power is formidable and cannot be ignored. At a time when India was facing severe financial crisis, hunger, poverty and unemployment and had to depend on other countries for wheat and maize (under PL480 with only 35 crore population), Nehru implemented the Non-alignment policy to improve foreign relations and augmented the financial cooperation from other countries.
Rising from such wretched condition, India is now not only able to export food grains to 65 countries, but is also able to produce food in surplus for its 130 crore people. By implementing the historic, revolutionary food security act to supply food grains at the lowest prices is a milestone in India’s history. From castor oil lamps and bullock cart economy, India has now made possible prestigious missions like Chandrayaan standing shoulder to shoulder with technologically sound nations to the extent that we have launched satellites for them and we emerged as the third largest economy in the world and people starting turning their heads to India when in need of technical expertise. It goes without saying that the foundation for such developments was the policies that Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi put in place. They geared up the nation and steered it forward giving it a great momentum to sustain in the future years.
Given the humungous support that Nehru had from his countrymen, Indira Gandhi could have easily become the Prime Minister immediately after his demise in 1964. However it must be noted that she didn’t come as his successor. After Nehru served as the Prime Minister from 15th August 1947 to 27th May 1964, it was Gulzarilal Nanda and Lal Bahadur Shastri who succeeded him. Indira Gandhi was elected as the Prime Minister two years after his demise in 1966 in a democratic way and not through dynasty politics.
Had it been dynasty politics, Indira Gandhi would have had a silver spoon in her mouth. However it didn’t happen this way. She ruled for 11 years 59 days till 24th March 1977. She even faced the brunt of people’s rejection before the Janata party came to power with Morarji Desai and Charan Singh at the helm. They ruled until January 14th 1980. In the subsequent elections however, she had a thumping victory (352 out of 518 seats) and was reelected the Prime Minister and had unstinting support from the countrymen. As the Prime Minister she considered this country as her own home. It is for this reason her name remains etched in the annals of the world history as the longest-serving woman Prime Minister, the first woman Prime Minister of India, the Iron lady of India and as a valorous woman capable of making some toughest decisions.
She made a mark for herself by making some major, crucial policy decisions such as nationalization of banks, the 20 point programme and abolition of privy purses. She laid down her life for her motherland when she was brutally shot dead by her own gunmen at her residence. After her death, her elder son Rajiv Gandhi, a pilot who was far removed from the world of politics was entailed to foray into politics. In the subsequent elections Congress party had an unprecedented victory and Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India to serve the country from 1984 to 1989. Even he was assassinated. It was not his lust for power or dynasty politics, but his sheer will to fill the void created by the demise of his mother Indira that he entered politics and lost his life too. How can we call this dynasty politics?
Even in the elections that followed when Congress won, Sonia Gandhi could have effortlessly become the Prime Minister had she thought of dynasty politics, but the astute statesman P.V Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister and laid firm financial foundations for this nation.
Except Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi pulverized their bodies for the sake of this country and not to pursue undemocratic politics. Rajiv witnessed his mother’s death, Rahul witnessed both his grandmother and father become the targets of assassination, Sonia Gandhi went through the ordeals of losing her mother-in-law and her beloved husband in assassinations.
After a long hiatus, she had to enter active politics to fill this vacuum. After 1990, the Gandhi family never held any position of power. From 2000 to 2014, Sonia Gandhi worked as the AICC President and helped the party win twice in many states as well as at the centre. However, Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister at both instances. Rahul Gandhi could have become a central minister, but he contributed only at the level of the party vice president. Manmohan Singh who does not belong to the Gandhi dynasty served for the longest time after Indira and Nehru. The Congress government’s commitment towards social justice saw a Dalit woman become the Loksabha speaker, Pratibha Patil the President, Hamid Ansari the Vice President. Under the leadership of Manmohan Singh, the congress ideology was further strengthened as the backward classes, Dalits, women and minorities were able to participate in nation-building.
Since 1998, Sonia won in elections every time she contested and worked as the leader of opposition from 1998 to 2004. Since 1998 (about two decades) she has been consistently elected as the AICC President for four times. She also holds the record of being the president for the longest time in the 130 year history of Congress Party. Since 2013, Rahul Gandhi has been serving as the Vice President of AICC. He worked his way up with his own merit and not through political favoritism or dynasty politics. He held various positions in NSUI, Youth Congress and Rajiv Gandhi trust before he got elected as MP in 2004. Even though he had the privilege of coming from the Gandhi family, he never exploited it in anyway, but served the party and the people.
Clearly, the Gandhi family was noble and sacrificed their lives in the interest of the nation. In an era where politics has become a business (where father comes into power to bring his entire family into politics to reap the benefits of power and position), Sonia Gandhi gave up the opportunity to become the Prime Minister for three times and proved that she has inherited her predecessors’ values of putting the nation before personal interest. Is it sensible to criticize by assigning the term ‘dynasty politics’ to a family that gave martyrs to the country who laid their lives, crushed and mutilated their own bodies for the sake of their country that they loved so dearly? Have the occult and opportunist political species of humans in this country forgotten the long history of the nation’s trust in the quality leadership delivered from the members of this nationalistic family? Have we all become so skewed in our vision that we cannot perceive their pure patriotism?... Will the countrymen ever accept, endorse or appreciate this diabolical and conniving effort from politicians who are determined to malign the Gandhi family to fuel their own personal and political growth? Unlike the present family politics being perpetuated in the state through the means of sentiment and exploitation of emotions, the Gandhi family won the confidence and trust of the countrymen. To humiliate them is to belittle the trust of every Indian throughout the history. Is it not?
Former TPCC President