The 1949 Dehradun Session of the Congress: Or Nawab Nehru as an Apologist for Corruption

The 1949 Dehradun Session of the Congress: Or Nawab Nehru as an Apologist for Corruption

In this episode, DVG provides several eye-opening details about how pervasive corruption had become as early as 1949. We learn that the Dehradun Session of the Congress witnessed Nehru offering a pathetic apologia for this rot.

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The 1949 Dehradun Session of the Congress: Or Nawab Nehru as an Apologist for Corruption
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The 1949 Dehradun Session of the Congress: Or Nawab Nehru as an Apologist for Corruption

THE DEHRADUN SESSION (21st & 22nd May 1949) of the AICC did nothing to find a cure for the ailments of the Congress. Pandit Nehru was obliged by his official position to assume the uncongenial role of an apologist for Congress corruption. It was a secret session and lasted for five hours. And some 14 members including Acharya Kripalani are said to have made strong animadversions on the conduct of Congress Ministries. On the other side Dr. Rajendra Prasad is said to have complained about the failure of Congressmen in general in relation to the constructive programme of nation building.

But the public at large are not so much affected by the latter as by the former. Pandit Nehru as Prime Minister naturally felt it his duty to reply to the critics. And the gist of his reply is that complaints of corruption and nepotism were "exaggerated." This reply is of a kind that can readily be made by almost anybody to any complaint by anyone anywhere. Mark Twain, seeing that the newspapers reported him dead when he had only been ill, is said to have commented that the papers had grossly “exaggerated."

If Nehru seriously meant to satisfy the critics, he least be should have done is to out lite a scheme of positive action and promise expeditious and resolute performance. 

More recently, speaking of the sensational success of Sri Sarat Chandra Bose (votes 19,030) against the Congress candidate (votes 5,780) in the South Calcutta by election to the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal (12-6-1949), Pandit Nehru agreed that it is wrong to belittle the significance of the event.   However, he went on to plead that " instead of expelling Congressmen for misconduct or dereliction of duty, they should be won over as was done by Mahatma Gandhi." 

We must confess to a feeling of sad surprise that so robust-minded a man as Pandit Nehru should be having recourse to the pathetic expedient invoking Gandhi ji's name for curing ills which can yield only to the sharp surgical knife of disciplinary action. If Gandhi ji had been alive today, it is highly doubtful whether be would have been able to control the forces of evil now working havoc in the body politic

The Mahatma had already begun to realise in his last days that power inevitably ushers in corruption; that it breeds self-interest; that it promotes personal jealousies and group rivalries; that it nurtures intrigue and conspiracy; that human nature in the ordinary must succumb to the baser impulses enkindled by the prospect of office and profit. He had sensed all this and foreseen that the forces of demoralisation would prove too much even for his hands to keep under check.

The demoralisation that has overtaken the Congress is, in truth, nothing but the normal working out of the less lovely elements of our common human nature. We should have been surprised if such demoralisation had not come about. That it has come about can surprise no one except those who made the mistake of thinking that the members of the Indian National Congress are somehow superior to the rest of the human race; that the Congressman is somehow immune to the weaknesses and temptations which ordinary human flesh is heir to.

Those who would cure the Congress of the malady must therefore seek other remedies than the easy one of re-chanting tho name of the Mahatma or repeating his phrases and formulas. 

In his Dehradun speech, Nehru admitted that England is the one country in the world which has been able to overcome the corrupting influences which raised their head in war-time. For the strength and prestige of their political organization, Englishmen do not depend upon oratorical appeals and sentimental exhortations. They believe in businesslike vigilance and strict enforcement of the code. 

The popular discontent is all about Nehru’s colleagues and collaborators in Provinces and States. He surely cannot answer for them. Of what avail is his shining example when his fellow-ministers are not either able or willing to follow it in their respective spheres of authority? That is the gravamen of the charge levelled at the Congress Ministries. The charge is directed more against the Governments in the Provinces and the States than against the Centre. 

It is the Provincial Governments that touch the daily ives of the people more largely and more intimately than does the Central Government. The truth of the present position has been stated bluntly by the New Statesman of London  (June 2, 1949): "The discipline taught by Gandhi was forgotten when the Congress won power without a rival to check it or criticise it. It flung itself on the sweets of office and scrambled for the rewards of its years of sacrifice." 

To be continued

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