A book, part of a series commissioned by the Congress party on its history, related the decline of the Congress in the Hindi heartland to certain political measures taken by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, including the “excesses during the Emergency”.
The fifth volume of the Centenary History of the Indian National Congress — covering the period from 1964 to 1984 — has been commissioned by the All India Congress Committee to commemorate the party’s 125 years but written by independent scholars.
Both the authors and the party have maintained that the views in the volumes are not the official line of the party but an academic exercise.
In an article by political scientist Sudha Pai, the book says, “She (Indira Gandhi) attempted to reach down to the bottom level and restructure the party from the top into an 'oligarchy' controlled with the help of her close aides. This led to the breakdown of the 'machine' character of Congress, which had been the strength of the party in some states.”
Pointing out that the book began with two disclaimers, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said the views reflected in the book were, at best, the opinions of the individual contributors. “The Congress party does not subscribe to those views,” he added.
Historian Mridula Mukherjee, member of the editorial team, agreed. The Congress had invited about 20 independent scholars to write a history of this period as a whole. “None of the contributors are party members and to think that their views will strictly reflect the party perspective is not realistic,” she said.
The book comes at a time when Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has stepped up efforts to re-build the party’s base in Uttar Pradesh.
Attributing the party's shrinking base in the Hindi heartland to the "excesses of the Emergency", the book says that the support gained by the Congress from the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and minorities, which in the Nehruvian era, was an essential condition for the disproportionate support in the region, had broken down in 1977 due to Emergency.
Writing the preface to the book in his capacity as series editor, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee made it clear that the Congress approached the experts to generate an "objective and scholarly perspective”, not necessarily the “party perspective”. It is not an official history of the Congress between 1964 and 1984, Mukherjee has written.
With PTI inputs