End of Nehru-Gandhi era

The retirement of Pranab Mukherjee as the President of India marks in a sense the ending of the Nehru-Gandhi era. Mukherjee was groomed by Indira Gandhi and he remained loyal, first to her and then to her memory till the last day in his office. Since his entry into politics fifty years ago in 1967 as an understudy of Ajoy Mukherjee, founder of Bangla Congress and then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mukherjee has seen politics or power politics as a spectator and actor from seat of the Central Government in Delhi. His gratitude to Indira found expression in his farewell speech, too. But for a brief period when he left the Congress after a tiff with Rajiv Gandhi and floated his Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress only to come a cropper in West Bengal Assembly polls and discovered his limitations, he has been in the Congress all through.
Even while he was holding the august office he never flinched from pointing out to the Government and the ruling party whenever he found it necessary its failures and deviations in a language befitting his office. His farewell speech was also a Parthian shot to those who are trying to undo the democratic and pluralistic tradition that has been built up over the last seventy years. As a retired President he cannot take part in politics but his guidance and his sage counsel will be always there for anyone who seeks it. He has an enviable memory as Parliament has witnessed many times. Equally enviable were his grasp of facts and figures and his art of marshalling them.
Much of the tradition that Jawaharlal Nehru and after him his daughter Indira Gandhi built was disowned by the Congress party itself with the start of the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh era in the early nineteen nineties. This deviation from traditional Congress politics and the rise of a dynastic leadership in the party have marred the Congress’ image as a Left-of-Centre political party and progressively alienated it from the masses. Today it finds itself unable to fight elections and come to power on its own in any State, not to speak of the Centre. It has to try to fight the polls in alliance with like-minded parties, often, as in Bihar, as a junior partner. But this is the reality of the times. If the Congress leadership ever turns to Mukherjee for guidance and counsel he is not likely to disappoint the party that made him what he is today.

Tuesday, 25 July, 2017