By Saiyed Moziz Imam
New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS) The ‘durbari culture, which has almost become synonymous with the Congress, didnt find a place in the party till Indira Gandhi emerged on the scene and took charge. Earlier, opinions were heard.
For instance, after the loss of 1962 war with China, then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru was advised by Lal Bahadur Shastri to remove V K Menon as Defence Minister. Despite reluctance from Nehru, Menon was replaced by Y.B. Chavan.
After the death of Nehru, it was the powerful Chief Minister of Madras State K. Kamraj who was instrumental in the appointment of Lal Bahadur Shastri as his successor as the Prime Minister.
Kamraj, despite humble beginning, rose to become the ‘kingmaker’ in the Congress politics.
Such was the team of Nehru that the 1963 Kamraj Plan was implemented to cull dissent against the Prime Minister and leaders like Biju Patnaik resigned from his cabinet to work for the party. Nehru too had offered to quit but was dissuaded by Kamraj himself. Later, Kamraj became the President of the party.
Following the death of Shastri, Indira Gandhi stepped in and a bitter fight ensued between her and S. Nijalingappa. The party was split wide open between the old guards and the young ‘turks’.
In 1969, the Congress was split, as the seniors, who were called as ‘Syndicate’, were not comfortable with the new force — Indira Gandhi — whom they would describe as ‘Gungi Gudiya’ (dumb doll).
The discord came to the fore when Indira Gandhi opposed the official Congress candidate N. Sanjeeva Reddy for the post of President of India. She asked the party legislators to vote according to their conscience and V.V. Giri was elected as the President of India.
Subsequently, Indira formed Congress (R). This Congress (R) became Congress (I) in 1978 and then Indian National Congress in 1996.
In the intervening period of 1970 to 1977, Indira Gandhi appointed three Presidents of the party but in 1978, she decided to take charge herself, officially. And thereafter started the coterie culture.
P.N. Haksar, a bureacract, became her most trusted lieutenant.
Siddharth Shankar Ray too was in her inner coterie because of his close association with Sanjay Gandhi and it was he on whose advice Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency in 1975.
Later, R.K. Dhawan rose to prominence in Indira Gandhi’s office and his word would be final in many matters.
“But Indira Gandhi used to meet visitors regularly at her residence. So, there was no opaque wall,” according to a Congress leader, who added that meeting Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, is a tough task.