Even as the Indian National Congress (INC) inherited, by default, the reins of power from the British in 1947, it went about making mistake after mistake. The combined weight of these mistakes has resulted in the party ending up in the political doghouse.
The first mistake it committed was allowing Jawaharlal Nehru to become Prime Minister instead of its own choice of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The party acquiesced to the whims of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who backed Nehru. It displayed a lack of political sagacity by failing to keep in its fold patriotic freedom fighters like Subhas Chandra Bose.
In fact, Bose had to resign from the post of the Party President due to the manipulations by MK Gandhi and his coterie in the Congress Working Committee. After that, Boseformed an independent party by the name The Forward Block and fought for India’s freedom from outside the Congress umbrella. This was the second mistake. The third mistake was allowing Nehru’s daughter to succeed him, thereby paving the way for the perpetuation of a family rule. The party has lost all its credibility after being bogged down under far too many scams and scandals. Now, there is no tall leader to steer it clear of the impending disaster.
Inept and Inefficient Leadership
Be that as it may, during its 55-year long rule, the Congress governments suffered from inept and inefficient leadership. In matters of foreign and defence policies, the Congress leadership was notorious for not taking a nation-centric stance. Nehru was, in particular, given to flights of fancy and romantic visions about India and its neighbours.
He believed in his ability to trade-off magnanimity with peace from neighbouring states. Instead of winning wars with belligerent neighbours and keeping India’s territorial integrity intact, he kept seeking admiration and accolade of the international community with his lofty speeches and platitudes for peace.
Army in Disarray
He even questioned the need for an Army for a peace-loving nation like India. The Army was neglected, and the leadership of the armed forces denigrated. There was the meddling of political leadership in the armed forces, and sycophancy was promoted. There was no procurement of weapons or equipment. The Army was rocked by corruption scandals. Shockingly, during those days India’s intelligence services were in a shambles.
Foreign Policy Fiasco
Nehru’s ceaseless espousal of non-alignment had no traction in international politics. With all his talk about peaceful co-existence between nations and the Non-Aligned Movement in a bi-polar world, Nehru wanted to make a mark for himself as a statesman par excellence. In the bargain, India’s foreign policy was left in tatters. He was busy sending members of his family and coterie as Ambassadors abroad more to promote his image than to win friends for India. One of Nehru’s biggest foreign policy blunders was his not insisting on a One-India policy in return for the One-China policy that he readily agreed to.
When the Pakistani marauders invaded Kashmir in 1947, the Indian Army successfully repelled and pushed them back at the request of Maharaja Hari Singh, who was willing to accede his State to India. Instead of insisting on its unequivocal accession, the Nehru government granted the State special status under Article 370 of the Constitution. The grand gesture backfired, and Kashmir became a nest of vipers, where anti-nationals of all hues and shades and terrorists took sanctuary. When the Indian forces were on the verge of a complete victory, Nehru needlessly appealed to the UNSC and went for a ceasefire.
This was both unnecessary and uncalled for. Now, only 55% of Kashmir is with India. To make matters more confounded, Pakistan ceded some territories of the occupied Kashmir to China! Nehru crowned his mistakes with an offer of a plebiscite on Kashmir in the UN. Apart from lack of sound judgment, these actions betray a muddled-up mindset and a lack of imagination and the perils of distancing oneself from the ground reality vis-a-vis a hostile neighbour. The Congress governments, which succeeded the Nehru-led government, never displayed any sign of lessons learnt from past mistakes.
We have had several wars, conflicts and military stand-offs with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism during the Congress rule without any conclusive resolution of the problems. This was primarily because every time India’s action was in the nature of a knee-jerk reaction, and there was a lack of political will and defence preparedness. Subsequent to the ceasefire at the end of the 1965 war, India and Pakistan signed the Tashkent Agreement. In terms of the Agreement, India returned the Haji Pir Pass, which had been won from Pakistan. All that Pakistan did to reciprocate was to promise an end to the hostilities. It did not even keep this promise. This dealt a heavy blow to our diplomacy.
Similarly, the Simla Agreement that we had with Pakistan at the end of the 1971 war that culminated in the liberation of Bangladesh brought to the fore another bungling at the negotiating table by our political leadership. The Agreement called for, among other things, the exchange of POWs between the two countries. Whereas India returned all the 96,000 Pakistani POWs, Pakistan reneged on its commitment and returned only 617 Indian POWs, holding back 54, who are still languishing in Pakistani jails, if alive. This was an unimaginable fiasco after a splendidly fought war. The sheen of the military victory was lost to the muddle headedness of the political leadership of the day.
The India-China war of 1962 was an unmitigated disaster that brought India to its knees. Apart from being caught totally unprepared, our Army was in no shape to fight, with hardly the necessary weapons and equipment available. India had to seek help and aid from other countries. This was the same China in whose favour Nehru had sacrificed Indian candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. India has ever since been unsuccessfully lobbying for the seat, with China vetoing India’s nomination, year after year. All this could have been avoided with a little pragmatism and farsightedness on the part of Nehru.
In the aftermath of the recent Chinese attack in the Galwan Valley in Tibet, an inter-ministerial probe into a sensational exposure about an alleged nexus between Congress and the Chinese Communist Party has been instituted by the government. The allegations range from the signing of an MoU between the two parties in Beijing in 2008 to the acceptance of large sums of money and favours by Congress from the Chinese government. The veracity of the allegations and the extent of damage caused to our nation will determine the future of Congress Party.
The laundry list of several other goof-ups involving the Congress governments is practically endless, including the numerous terror attacks carried out by Pakistani terror outfits like LeT, JeM, etc in the Indian heartland, and the dastardly attack on the Indian Parliament, to name a few. Here, let us not forget the sensational revelation in 2012 of how the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government had wanted to demilitarise the Siachen glacier and cede the control of the strategic glacier to Pakistan!
The article has been written by Dr Sunil Gupta. He is a Chartered Accountant, author and blogger. He has served as an Independent Director on the Boards of India’s most influential public sector banks.