The Congress has put its foot in its mouth, and the timing could not have been worse. Just ahead of the party's 131st Foundation Day celebrations today, the Congress' Mumbai wing has shocked party loyalists with an exhaustive write-up in its mouthpiece blaming the party icon and India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, for the state of affairs in Kashmir, China and Tibet. The article blatantly states that Nehru should have listened to freedom fighter and former home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's views on international affairs.
At a conference on the partition of India in June 1947, are (from left) President of the Indian National Congress Acharya J B Kripalani, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Advisor to the Viceroy Sir Eric Melville, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Lord Mountbatten. Pic/Getty Images
In the past, the party has rarely commented on the historic tussle between the two, but the December issue of 'Congress Darshan' (Hindi edition) does just that, in a tribute piece to mark Patel's death anniversary on December 15.
While the Congress rarely comments on the historic feud between the nation's first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru (left) and fellow freedom fighter and former home minister Sardar Patel, the Congress article goes a step further and says Nehru's stand was wrong. Pic/AFP
“Despite Patel getting the post of deputy prime minister and home minister, the relations between the two leaders remained strained, and both had threatened to resign time and again,” reads the article.
In the Congress article, the paragraph next to Sardar Patel's picture says that if Nehru had embraced Patel's foresight, many problems in international affairs would not have arisen
The controversial write-up, which is not accompanied by the author's name, underlines in the very beginning that the country has been celebrating Patel's birth anniversary (October 31) as the National Unity Day since 2014. The Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) seems to have forgotten that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who started the initiative to reinvent Patel as a national icon to overshadow other Congress leaders, including the late Indira Gandhi, whose death anniversary had been observed by the party on the same day since 1985.
Mumbai Congress chief and editor of its mouthpiece, Sanjay Nirupam said he is not involved in the day-to-day functioning of the magazine and was unaware of the article. File pic
Right-wing Hindutva forces and the BJP have often endorsed Patel as the true Hindu icon and architect of India's freedom struggle. It is usually the saffron brigade that portrays Patel as a man of steel (lohapurush) and paints Gandhi and Nehru as villains who spoilt the dream of Akhand Bharat (unified India), while generations of Congress leaders have denied this. However, MRCC's mouthpiece has gone against the party line and endorsed the view that Nehru was to blame for the Kashmir conflict.
“Nehru (PM) was in charge of foreign affairs and kept Kashmir with him, citing that it was an international issue. But Patel, being deputy PM, would sometimes attend the cabinet meetings. Today's problems wouldn't have arisen had Patel's foresight in the Kashmir issue been considered then,” wrote the unidentified author.
The essay includes more stunners, such as the claim that Nehru also messed up other international issues like China, Tibet and Nepal because he ignored Patel's views.
The author cited a letter that Patel wrote in 1950 to caution Nehru against China's policy towards Tibet and where “Patel described China as unfaithful, and a future enemy of India…”
“Had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel been heard then (by Nehru), the problems of Kashmir, China, Tibet and Nepal wouldn't have existed now. Patel opposed Nehru's move of taking the Kashmir issue to the UNO,” stated the article, adding, “Nehru did not agree with Patel's views on Nepal.”
The writer also suggests that Nehru made yet another error regarding the liberation of Goa. Patel had suggested it be done in 1950, but because Nehru disagreed, the liberation movement took place a decade later.
“Nehru was very upset when Patel suggested at a prolonged cabinet meeting in 1950 that the Indian armed forces would finish the task (of freeing Goans from the Portuguese) in just two hours. Goa wouldn't have had to wait till 1961 for freedom had Patel's suggestion been accepted then,” added the article.
The article (appearing on pages 18 to 23) also recounts other clashes between the two Congress heavyweights, who differed on matters from economic policy to Hindu-Muslim unity (see 'Excerpts').
Congress Darshan is edited by MRCC president Sanjay Nirupam, who was once also editor of the Shiv Sena's Hindi mouthpiece 'Dopahar Ka Saamana'.
The monthly has four other senior MRCC members on its editorial board — Sandesh Kondvilkar, Bhushan Patil, Chitrasen Singh and Nizamuddin Raeen.
However, when this reporter read out the article to Nirupam last morning, he said he was not involved in the day-to-day working of the magazine and it was someone else's responsibility to check the contents before it went to print. “I do not agree with the article. It seems to have been sourced, but I don't know who the writer is,” he said, adding that corrective measures would be taken.
Nirupam's defence did not go down well with Congress loyalists. A senior party leader told mid-day that the goof-up was unpardonable and indicated irresponsibility of the office-bearers. “We have already taken the issue to the party bosses in New Delhi. The December issue has some objectionable content about Sonia Gandhi as well” he said, requesting anonymity.
Sonia targeted too
The special focus of the December issue of Congress Darshan is Nehru’s granddaughter-in-law and the current Congress President Sonia Gandhi. While the party desists from discussing Sonia’s foreign origin for obvious reasons, the articles describe her early life in great detail, including her ambition to become an airhostess, as well as an allegation that her father was a member of fascist forces that lost to the Russians in the World War. Incidentally, the Congress takes pride in calling the right-wingers and the BJP fascist forces.
Another article describes how Sonia quickly rose to the position of party president. “Sonia Gandhi registered as a primary member of the Congress in 1997 and became the party’s president in 62 days. She also made an unsuccessful attempt to make a government,” reads the article.
These are excerpts from the tribute piece on Sardar Patel, translated from the Hindi edition of the Congress Darshan (December 2015):
>> In the Congress, Patel was considered as Nehru’s competition. Mahatma Gandhi did not want him to be the Prime Minister, and forced him to withdraw from the race for Congress president’s post because of the latter’s hardline stance against Muslims. After Independence, most of the regional Congress committees were in favour of Patel, but he honoured Gandhi’s wish and stayed away from the race for the PM’s post.
>> In a true sense, Sardar Patel fit Manu’s concept of governance (Hindutva forces are accused of being followers of ancient thinker Manu’s theories, which are unacceptable to the Congress). Patel was a strategist like Kautilya, and possessed the foresight of Shivaji Maharaj. Unlike Mahatma Gandhi (who was a secular), Patel did not agree on the unity of Hindu and Muslims as a precondition for independence.
>> Patel had redeveloped Gujarat’s Somnath Temple (said to have been razed by Muslim rulers several times in history) against Nehru’s wish.
>> Patel did not agree with Nehru’s deliberate attempts to bring about social and economic changes in the country. He, being a traditionalist Hindu, disapproved of (Nehru’s) idea of adopting socialism. Patel believed in the free trade regime, and hence won the trust of traditionalists, who largely funded the activities of the Indian National Congress.