A recent statement by Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, stating that 'some people follow different ideologies and take varying decisions', was clearly a jibe aimed at Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar – over his decision to support the candidature of Ram Nath Kovind for the upcoming presidential election.
This distressing statement was made in spite of several clarifications issued by both Nitish and I, on behalf of the JD(U), that support for Kovind can be regarded as an 'isolated incident' and a 'one time affair', making one wonder as to why such a senior Congress leader has chosen to do so.
Azad has held several important positions in the governments of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. His statement has, therefore, made an impact on the Coalition Alliance.
Opposition parties coming together along with farmers' organisations during the recent farmers' agitations in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh had provided traction to efforts for mobilising forces against the Narendra Modi government. After the death of six farmers at Mandsaur, farmers across the country rose up in agitation.
These issues provided an opportunity for the Congress leadership to place the government in the docks. However, instead of seizing the opportunity to amalgamate the Opposition forces, the Congress party instead chose to attack the very leader of the Coalition Alliance.
With his good governance peg and spotlessly clean image, Nitish has been steadily gaining recognition across the country as a leader to be reckoned with, who can pose a challenge to Modi. Several leaders, including HD Deva Gowda, Sharad Powar and Lalu Prasad Yadav have on several occasions appreciated his governance and pegged him as a potential challenger to Modi.
JD(U), as a party, adheres to and is devoted to the highest principles of socialism. For JD(U) members, dharnas, demonstrations and even going to jail, if necessary, is part of the tradition. Just after Independence, leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia, Jay Prakash Narayan and Narendra Dev had soon realised that the (then) ruling Congress party is distanced from both the farming and the industrial sectors.
Had the JD(U) leaders so desired, they too, by virtue of their stature, could have occupied positions of power and high office but they chose instead to abide by the call of their principles. Even though they had been imprisoned during the Emergency, JD(U) leaders continued to unwaveringly abide by their cherished principles. Therefore, when insinuations are raised against JD(U), it becomes necessary for the party to respond.
The freedom struggle was fought under the leadership of Gandhi. Jawaharlal Nehru was a leader of international stature with cherished principles such as secularism, non-alignment and development of the public sector. He was the first non-Arab leader who gave recognition to the state of Palestine and along with Chou-en-lai, Marshal Tito, Nasser and Sukarno, he strived to strengthen the non-alignment movement.
However, it was one of his later successors, PV Narasimha Rao who, in 1992, not only accorded recognition to Israel but also commenced procurement of military hardware from it. This was the period during which Congress began slipping away from its principles.
Bank Nationalisation, which brought banking into the ambit of the poor, was amongst Indira Gandhi’s progressive decisions. During UPA-1, a committee had been set up under the chairmanship of PJ Naik to examine how banks can once again be de-nationalised. Socialist policies initiated under Nehru and Indira were started only to be abandoned later.
Disinvestment was at a high and this was the very period when the Congress party was retreating from its erstwhile socialist ideals. Liberalisation, Privatisation and reckless foreign direct investments were encouraged, which demolished the dreams of Gandhi, Nehru and Indira.
Nehru and Indira had been paragons of secularism. Yet, in spite of a Congress government in Delhi, the nation had to witness the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which led to a sharp polarisation of society.
During the rule of VP Singh, who headed the United Front Government with outside support of BJP, Lal Krishna Advani, while on a tour of Sarnath, had sought to perform the placing of a symbolic foundation brick or ‘sheelanyas’ at Ayodhya. The Janata Dal was in power and Nitish, Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan were ministers in the government. Yet, history is witness to their being voted out of power rather than the laying down of the‘sheelanyas’.
When the recommendations of the Mandal Committee were sought to be implemented under the leadership of VP Singh, it was as if an earthquake had struck. This was the single-most significant step after Independence to empower the socially and economically backwards classes of society and was in accordance with the tenets enshrined in the Constitution, that provided reservation in employment for these sections of society. It is a matter of regret that the Congress party had sided with the BJP to force the government of the time out of power and many Congress leaders had chosen to consider the agitation as a communal one.
Now, when JD(U) once again has a leader of that stature in Nitish, instead of strengthening his hands and providing him support, there is an attempt at indictment and fault finding. On his part, Nitish has himself announced unequivocally that he is not an aspirant for any top post and that his is a small party with a mere 15-20 seats, which does not suffice to support a claim for prime ministership.
Opposition parties must instead formulate and work on a common minimum programme. The JD(U) will not function on the dictates of another party. Yet Nitish, who has expressed strong remorse at Azad's statements has nevertheless appealed for the Coalition Alliance to be strengthened.
Updated Date: Jul 04, 2017 17:53 PM