HT THIS DAY: SEPT 9, 1951 Nehru chosen Congress President
New Delhi: The month-old Congress crisis over the resignation of Mr. Nehru from the party executive, which had been swelling like a tide, was resolved today by the A.-I.C.C. asking Mr. Nehru to become Congress President.
The Prime Minister has agreed to shoulder the responsibility of this new office, even though for a temporary period. From tomorrow he becomes Congress President as well in succession to Mr. Tandon.
The A.-I.C.C., which met in camera today for an emergency session at 5 p.m. at Constitution Club for two hours, passed a resolution by a huge majority-only four members out of the 295 present voting against-requesting Mr. Nehru “to undertake the responsibility of Presidentship and continue to guide the Congress in these critical days."
Pandit Pant moved the resolution and Mr. S. K. Patil seconded it.
The A.-I.C.C. passed another resolution accepting the resignation of Mr. Tandon from the Congress Presidentship. “While regretfully accepting the resignation," said the resolution, "the A.-I.C.C. places on record its deep appreciation of his great services to the Congress as its President."
The resolution which was also passed by a big majority-only eight or nine members voting against-was moved by Pandit Pant and seconded by Mr. Atulya Ghosh.
Both the retiring and incoming Presidents spoke to the A.-I.C.C. Mr Tandon placed his resignation before the A.-I.C.C. and asked for its acceptance. He made a brief statement dwelling on the situation leading to his resignation; how he could not see his way to reconstituting the Working Committee as demanded, holding the demand as "neither constitutional nor proper."
I cannot accept Mr. Nehru's resignation because at present he is the symbol of our nation," he said with his customary dignity, and added: "At the same time, from the point of view of the constitution and propriety I cannot fulfil his desire.”
After his speech, Mr Tandon stepped aside from the presidential chair, but on Mr Nebru's insistence that Mr Tandon continue to preside over the A.-I.C.C. deliberations both today and tomorrow, he consented to do so.
Mr Nehru, it is understood, in a calm and conciliatory manner, addressed the A.-I.C.C. for about 45 minutes. The address was more in the nature of self-introspection, not only for himself but for every Congressman: To put the Congress house in order and to brace up the organization for grappling with the pressing problems of the day.
Mr Nehru, it is learned, said the Congress should be transformed into a live organization again. The prestige of the Congress which successfully struggled for freedom had been declining and a wall was rising between the people and the Congress. Young men were tending to turn away from it, he said.
Mr Nehru, it is understood, told the A.-I.C.C. that even at the Nasik Congress he wanted to keep out of the Working Committee and that he wanted to give a " shock " to the Congress. He disclosed that at the very first meeting of the Working Committee after the Ahmedabad session he had stated that the Committee should be reconstituted. There was no question of giving offence to anybody nor of bringing pressure on anyone.
Mr Nehru referred to the "shock " he had given to the Congress since he resigned from the executive a month ago, and said: " The shock seems to have worked well for the past three weeks, so much so that everybody has been discussing the Congress only. They had even forgotten to talk about a war between Pakistan and India."
He wanted to know, he said, how the people reacted to his resignation and he thought no harm had been done by it. Rather some good had resulted. The resignation, he thought, had served the Congress If there were any apprehensions in my mind about the propriety of the shock, these have now vanished completely.
In America, he pointed out, millions and millions of dollars were spent on publicity, but the Congress did not have to spend a pie and had received tremendous publicity these days through this "shock." Both Congressmen and non-Congressmen had talked of Congress and foreigners too. It all showed the Congress was not a dead body.
Mr Nehru expressed it as his belief that the Congress had to fulfil an important role in the country and that it would remain a powerful organization.
He is believed to have asked Congressmen to awake to the realities of the day. He instanced how Mr Churchill won the war for England but was thrown out of office when the war was over. Perhaps it was an easier thing to win a war than to solve the problems of the day. "If we are not alive to the realities and have a proper grasp of them, the organization will fade away. We won, a great battle and we cannot afford to be lost in trivialities."
Mr Nehru is reported to have said it was not good to combine the Congress Presidentship with the Prime Ministership, but as he was also one of those who created a hiatus he could not run away from it.
"One should not be bashful in this matter. When you direct me to shoulder a responsibility I cannot be a coward and refuse. You must trust me and I must trust you and we must come to deliberate decisions, he added.
Mr Nehru spoke of Mr Tandon. He said: '' Our friendship is spread over 39 years. Though we did not agree always we have mutual affection and, therefore, there is no question of personality in this controversy. I have been feeling that the Congress is slipping away from the common man and, therefore, it is necessary to revitalize it."
The following is the text of Mr Tandon's opening statement at the A.-I.C.C.: " I am placing this my resignation from the Congress Presidentship before you and I request you to accept it.
"To put it briefly, the reason for my resignation is that by a letter dated August 6, Mr Nehru tendered his resignation from the Working Committee and in spite of my efforts and those of the Working Committee he has not agreed to withdraw the same. His demand has been that the whole Working Committee should be dissolved and a new Committee constituted. I have not been able to agree to this, since to my mind this demand is neither constitutional nor proper.
“More than a half of the members of the Working Committee were selected after consultation among five senior Congressmen, namely, Mr Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Mr Rajagopalachari and myself, on September 27. The rest of the names were selected on October 16. Mr Nehru was not present on that date, but the other four took full part in the consultation. The Working Committee has, to my knowledge, done nothing which might raise the question of its reconstitution.
"Mr Nehru seems to believe that by giving a shock to the Congress and bringing about a change in the Working Committee he will create a psychological effect in favour of the Congress. I am not able to accept this view. I believe that the work done by the Working Committee during the last ten months has helped in raising the moral standard of the Congress. The situation that has been created by the resignation of Mr Nehru is, I think, definitely detrimental to the interests of the Congress.
SYMBOL OF NATION
"I cannot accept the resignation of Mr Nehru because at present he is the symbol of our nation. At the same time from the point of view of the constitution and of propriety I cannot fulfil his desire. Out of this dilemma I have no other way out but to place my resignation before you and I request you to relieve me of the responsibility of Presidentship.
'I have to inform you that Maulana Azad resigned from the Working Committee on August 15 and that the other members of the Committee have tendered their resignations within the last two days."
The A.-I.C.C. is meeting again tomorrow at 2-30 p.m. This session, unlike today's, will be open to the Press but not to visitors.
Congress circles believe in Mr Nehru's Working Committee would be included not less than half the members of the outgoing Committee. It is learned that he will invite Mr Tandon to join the Committee.
Earlier in the day, the Committee met informally for nearly an hour when the mediators in the crisis, Pandit Pant, Dr B. C. Roy and Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri, reported failure of their efforts.
The Nebru-Tandon correspondence relating to the crisis is expected to be released tomorrow.
Mr Nehru will be ' at home ' to members of the A.-I.C.C. at his residence tomorrow at 6 p.m.