As Congress celebrates the 137th Foundation Day on December 28, 2021, what is indeed important is its ability to strike a chord with the teeming masses of India.
The Congress derives its sustenance from the popular approval of its Idea of ââIndia. The Congress has developed the Idea of ââIndia, which is in accord with the Spirit of India. This is why it enjoys the widest possible popular acceptance. In this way, the party must shoulder the heavy responsibility of quickly putting out the fires that are ravaging society and saving India.
In the long list of illustrious Congress presidents is Sonia Gandhi, who has earned the distinction of being the longest-serving Congress president. Sonia Gandhi is the third President of the Congress among women of foreign origin, after Annie Besant and Nellie Sengupta. She is the fifth woman president of the Congress after Annie Besant, Nellie Sengupta, Sarojini Naidu and Indira Gandhi.
The birth of Congress on December 28, 1885, was an important milestone. In fact, Congress sparked the first nationalist movement in the British Empire; will stimulate the decolonization movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The soul of India, long repressed under the colonial yoke, found its word. India finally got its political voice through Congress, which has become a visible symbol of political unity.
Originally a popular movement, Congress was instrumental in securing the country’s freedom. After India’s independence, Congress built a modern and vibrant republic rooted in its core cultural and civilizational ethics.
As winds of hatred blow over India, Congress emerges as the focal point of the nation’s social, cultural and civilizational ethics. Since the time of Gautam Buddha, passing through Ashoka, the Mughal Emperor Akbar and, nowadays, Mahatma Gandhi, it is the way of love, which can save the world from the storm of hatred that threatens to tear apart the social fabric.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi once said: âWe will have to unite to save the pride and honor of the tricolor flags, thanks to which we have obtained the freedom of our nation. We have to win the hearts of the people. We should commit ourselves on the founding day of Congress to fight to protect the democracy of the country, the Constitution and the compatriots for whom we will fight to our last breath.
The Congress under Gandhiji has grown into a pan-Indian party, spanning every nook and cranny of the country. He identified with the people so much that he became a natural political platform for the teeming masses.
With the massive arrival of Mahatma Gandhi on the political scene in 1919, when he became the architect of Hindu-Muslim unity through Congress support for the Khilafat Movement, Congress transformed into a mass organization.
Gandhiji, on his return from South Africa on January 9, 1915, showed his courage with the agrarian movement of Champaran in 1917; but he had only really succeeded on the national political scene with the Congress which extended its support to the Khilafat Movement in 1919. This movement alone transformed the Congress, from a party of prayers and petitions, into an organization of mass. The countdown then began for the end of the British Empire.
It was the moment that sowed terror in the hearts of the British leaders, who tried to hijack the political discourse of Congress, forcing Muslim and Hindu communitarians. The Muslim League was launched in 1906, the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925.
But, the dominance of Congress in the political landscape was unmatched. Political discourse has also been heavily influenced by the Idea of ââthe Congress of India.
Shaping modern India
Another important aspect is that the Congress, since its inception, has not only been at the forefront of the struggle for freedom, but also at the forefront of national social and economic development.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, its eminent leader, became the first prime minister and architect of modern India. Nehru laid the foundation for the transformation of an ancient civilization into a modern nation.
In political institutions, in the economy, in science and technology, in space research, nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in education, health, the arts, literature and culture, as well as in agriculture and irrigation, heavy industry and infrastructure development, Congress has succeeded in putting India ahead.
Successive congressional governments have worked to create jobs, uplift the poor, empower women and create educational opportunities for young people.
Congress continues to be the main opposition party holding a strong majority government to account. Congress holds 20% of the vote, with a significant presence across the country.
The continued relevance of the Congress stems from the fact that the liberal and tolerant ethics embodied by Indira Gandhi are rejected and repudiated.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi entered the political arena when the idea of ââIndia, espoused by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, was called into question. Leading Congress at a crucial time from 1998, Sonia Gandhi returned the party to power in 2004. Once again, Sonia Gandhi faces a similar challenge to safeguard the Idea of ââIndia.
Sonia Gandhi, at a recent party meeting, warned that harmony gives way to discord, tolerance to provocation, and relative calm to growing confrontation, tension and fear. In addition, economic potential gives way to stagnation, the rich diversity gives way to brazen campaigns to lock the whole country into a regressive and narrow worldview.
As Sonia Gandhi surmised, Congress faces another serious challenge to its idea of ââIndia. The Congress looks once again to Sonia Gandhi to turn the challenge into an opportunity.
Venkat Parsa is a senior journalist and writer based in New Delhi.
Opinions expressed are personal