BY : TANVEER JAFRI : Since the freedom struggle, the Indian National Congress has played a crucial role. Under the flag of the Congress & the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, while the people from all states, regions, religions & communities got India freed from the British rule, the same Congress is also the witness of the unfortunate tragedy of the partition of India.
Notwithstanding the assumption of India-Pakistan partition as religion based, the leaders of the Congress, showing their magnanimity, succeeded in maintaining the secular character of the nation as was before partition. The secular credentials of the Congress established by Mahatma Gandhi were carried on by Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru & other Congress leaders.
Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India was so much influenced by the principles of secularism & communal harmony of Gandhi, that being belonging to a high caste Brahmin family, the former had full faith in all the religions. He used to go to Temples, Mosques, Gurudwaras, and Churches etc. He had the interest in studying the sacred texts of all the religions. An Islamic scholar used to visit Anand Bhawan, his Allahabad situated home, to teach him Arabic & Persian. His father, Pundit Motilal Nehru named his house Anand Bhawan, in consultation with the famous poet Akbar Allahabadi. The secular credentials of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru are evident from the fact that he got married her only daughter Indira Nehru to a Zoroastrian Feroz Gandhi.
Born in a Zoroastrian family in 1912, Feroz Gandhi was married to Indira Nehru in 1942. Since then, she was being called as Indira Gandhi. They had two children. Rajiv Gandhi, the elder son was born in 1944 & after two years, in 1946, Sanjay Gandhi, the younger son was born. Notwithstanding being son-in-law of the first Prime Minister, Feroz Gandhi had independent thoughts. He was a journalist, writer & a social worker. In 1952, in the first general elections, Feroz Gandhi contested from Raebareli (Uttar Pradesh) & won. He even criticized the government on issues, he didn’t agree. After his death in 1960, Indira Gandhi took over her husband’s election constituency & maintained it.
As Pundit Nehru, showing his secular credentials, got her only daughter married in a Zoroastrian family, following the same tradition, Indira Gandhi too got married her both sons according to their wishes. Elder son, Rajiv Gandhi was married to Edvige Antonia Albina Maino (Sonia Gandhi), an Italian born Roman Catholic. Younger Son, Sanjay Gandhi was married to Maneka Anand, a Sikh girl. Time passed, and once again putting aside the hurdles of caste & religion, Sonia Gandhi got her daughter Priyanka Gandhi married to Robert Vadra, a Punjabi boy. Robert’s mother is a Christian & father, a Punjabi.
Anyhow, what I mean to say is that if we attempt to analyse any member of the Nehru-Gandhi family on the basis of caste or religion, we would not be able to draw any conclusions. The larger fact is that even today most of the Indian people are supporters & well wishers of this family & this family enjoys great respect & affection. On one hand, some communal organizations continuously try to divide the nation on the basis of caste & religion; on the other hand, notwithstanding the assassinations of the Prime Ministers like Indira Gandhi & Rajiv Gandhi, the same family is continuously engaged in promoting the secularism & brotherhood. Though after the death of Rajiv Gandhi, the Congress received the huge setback, but by the entry of Sonia Gandhi, the Congress has been revitalised. Indeed in the 2004 general elections, the Congress party returned to the power. Besides hard work, Sonia Gandhi had to face the low grade accusations from her opponents. The whole world witnessed that when after 2004 general elections, the Congress elected her as the leader of the Congress Parliament Party & none of the allies had any objection of her becoming the Prime Minister, at the same time, some leaders of the opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised the issue of her foreign origin & as a result, she had to reject the post of Prime Minister. This was the first ever incidence in the Indian politics, when a person is first called by the President to form the government & the same person, instead of becoming the Prime Minister, recommends the name of some other person for the post of Prime Minister. She recommended the name of Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister & he became the Prime Minister of India in 2004.
The good thing in the last decade is that both the children of Sonia Gandhi; Rahul Gandhi & Priyanka Gandhi have become mature enough in politics. In fact, Rahul Gandhi was elected the Member of Parliament in 2004 from his father’s constituency Amethi. This time Rahul is going to contest the second election of his life. The Congress, which has been weakened from the last two decades, has much hope from these two young faces. Rahul Gandhi wants to carry on the science & technology revolution, started by his father. He has a team of young Member of Parliaments, who are fully devoted for the overall development of the nation.
Priyanka Gandhi, who always denied active participation in politics, has also indicated of her entry into active politics. Time will tell whether in the wake of repeated targeting of Nehru-Gandhi family by the fundamentalist forces, the Congress would be able to get back its lost entity. But one thing is clear that the work done by this family in presenting the secular & vibrant image of India at international level is indeed incomparable. Perhaps this is the reason that when any person of this family goes to any part of the country, the crowd of thousands of people gathers, just to get a glimpse of touch. It can be said that if the tradition of secularism & communal harmony is the hallmark of the Nehru-Gandhi family & it is being followed generation to generation.