Congress Presidential Election: Will Congressmen vote on 'Antaratma ki awaaz' today?
The ground worker - depressed, disgruntled and helpless - wants the situation to change. While there no Indira Gandhi to charm the Congressmen 1969, the antar-atma exists, and so exists its Awaaz - loud and clear.
It was the summer of 69, and the Congress was feeling the heat of perhaps the biggest infighting of its post-independence era. The battle was between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the SYNDICATE (a name given to a powerful group of senior leaders who controlled the Congress organisation). The Congress lawmakers had to take a big decision - to choose the country's new president between Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and VV Giri.
While Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy was the choice of the Syndicate - a group that included heavyweights like S Nijalingappa, K Kamraj and Morarji Desai; VV Giri was the independent candidate, who had the unofficial support of Indira Gandhi.
The Congress, till this juncture, was not a proprietary of the Gandhi family.
However, what happened next changed the party's future forever.
While Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy was the clear favourite for the President's post, VV Giri, the incumbent Vice-President, managed to defeat him a historic poll battle.
How and why did this happen?
In 1967, the top Congress leaders - also known as the syndicate - had chosen Indira Gandhi - a naive and inexperienced leader for the Prime Minister's job, pre-assuming that she will stay as a rubberstamp head of state and follow their directions quietly. This is the reason why Indira Gandhi was given the name 'Goongi Gudia' (dumb puppet) in her early years as the Prime Minister.
However, it didn't take Goongi Gudia much time to open her mouth and show signs of assertiveness. She started taking decisions - as big as the nationalisation of banks - all on her own. With this, her popularity rose among the masses - something that threatened the syndicate to its core.
Then came the summer of 69.
Incumbent President Zakir Hussain passed away in office, necessitating the elections for de jure head of the nation.
The Syndicate, without taking Indira Gandhi into confidence, declared senior leader Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy as their choice for the top job. Indira, in a catch-22 situation, decided to quietly back Giri - an independent candidate.
Ahead of the elections, PM Indira Gandhi asked her party leaders to vote on the voice of their conscience (or Antar-atma ki awaaz) - to choose between the right or wrong for country's and party's future.
As a result - VV Giri defeated Reddy with thin margin of less than 15,000 votes.
The elections turned out to be a cornerstone in making the Congress party a properitory of the Gandhi family.
Summer of 69 to be repeated?
After more than 50 years of that event, today, the Gandhis and darbaris (a term used for family loyalists) are the new syndicate. And there is no Indira Gandhi to fight them.
A situation has come where the centralisation of power into the Gandhi family's hands is seen as the party's biggest weakness. The clout is such that an election could only be necessitated as the party's top leader - Rahul Gandhi, his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi decided not to sit on the prime chair. Everything was smooth till the time a leader decided to contest the election against the will of the Gandhis.
This leader - Sashi Tharoor - a three time MP and former bureaucrat - quietly knows that it's near impossible to win this battle. Yet, he has shown no signs of being timid.
The other contender - Mallikarjun Kharge - a staunch Gandhi family loyalist - is confident of a victory.
For the political pundits, this election is just an eyewash. They pre-assume that Kharge will win. For the likes of this writer (who unfortuntely agrees with the pundits), the number of votes Mr Tharoor would fetch remains the biggest curiosity.
Will Congressmen vote on Antar-atma ki awaaz?
While everyone in the party is pre-assuming that Kharge (Read: Gandhis) will win with a comfortable majority, they also know that there is an undercurrent against the Gandhis. A number of party stalwarts have left, or have openly revolted against the family. The ground worker - depressed, disgruntled and helpless - wants the situation to change.
While there is no Indira Gandhi to charm the Congressmen like 1969, the antar-atma exists, and so exists its Awaaz - loud and clear.
Can the change happen? Will the change happen?
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