July 24, 2022

Fifty Years of Independence and Calcutta AICC Session

Harkishan Singh Surjeet

Below we reproduce the article written by Comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet published in People’s Democracy on the 50th anniversary of India’s Independence.

THE AICC session at Calcutta from August 8 to 10, 1997 adopted, amongst others, Political Resolution, Economic Policy Resolution, International Resolution and a Golden Jubilee Resolution. This session being held on the eve of the Golden Jubilee of Indian independence provided an opportunity for remembering the sacrifices made in the course of the struggle for freedom. It provided an opportunity of assessing the progress made by the Indian State and its people during the course of the last fifty years, whether the goals that the freedom movement had set before itself have been accomplished.


One would have expected the AICC session to make an evaluation of the achievements and failures of the last fifty years and the tasks that lie ahead of us. What were the goals that the national movement had set before itself? It was not merely freedom from British colonialism but freedom from hunger, poverty, illiteracy, casteism, communalism and regional and other disparities. The resolution adopted by the AICC session, instead of making a rational evaluation indulges in a exercise of self-glorification. It has reiterated what it has been doing all along that "It is the Indian National Congress, which, in the first half of the century, led the country to freedom. It is the Congress, which, in the second half of the century, has led the country in building the modern nationhood of independent India." Further, "On this Golden Jubilee of the Independence which, through struggle and sacrifice, the Congress won for our motherland...."

One should be naive to expect that at least on such a solemn occasion the Congress party would not indulge in petty politicking and partisanship. But as ever before, it has once again demonstrated that it will not give up its stance of discounting the other streams that were very much part and parcel of the freedom movement. This is not to deny that the Congress played the major and leading role.

The resolution recalls the pledge and goal set by the Father of the Nation and the first prime minister of India of "wiping every tear from every eye" and dedicating "ourselves in the worship of Daridranarayana, to eradicating poverty from this land; maintaining the poor and their needs as the primary focus of public policy; looking at the world with clear and friendly eyes." It would be incorrect to say that the country has not made any progress at all. It has built a good infrastructure, developed key industries, achieved self-sufficiency in various fields, developed indigenous technology and industry etc. Simultaneously in the social sector educational facilities, health care facilities have increased as compared to the pre-independence days. All these have been achieved under four and a half decades of Congress rule. But have these achievements been able to "wipe every tear from every eye?" These achievements are a far cry from what was visualised as independent India.


The title of the resolution on "Golden Jubilee Resolution" sounds a bit queer and misplaced. All that is contained in the resolution is unrestricted and wholesome self-praise. To a reader it would seem as though the history of the freedom movement as well as that of independent India is the history of the Congress party and its leaders. While it wants to share the glory for the achievements, it casts blame for the drawbacks and failures elsewhere.

Like the "Golden Jubilee Resolution" the political resolution is also an act of self-exaltation. In tune with the former resolution, this one too seeks to trace the history of the freedom movement and post-independent India to state that it is the "Indian National Congress which is primarily responsible for shaping the contours of Indian nationalism, giving it a sharp focus and thrust which enabled the country to throw off the yoke of colonialism and usher the country into an era of freedom." Here also, the resolution indulges in a narrative of events in a vain bid to establish that it is the Congress Party alone which has won the country freedom and is preserving it with all its might.

This resolution quotes from the resolution adopted at the Tirupathi Plenary session in 1992 and states that the "Indian National Congress resolves to fight communalism of every kind, from wherever it may rise...whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or any other." And further "there should be no alliance, cooperation or understanding explicit or implicit, between the Congress and any organisation which is essentially communal in character and functions, whatever its designation might be." Though there were indications that the Congress would apologise for the demolition of the Babri Masjid it has remained content by expressing "regret". Moreover, its regret is for its "inability to carry out the legal responsibility in protecting the Babri Masjid." (emphasis added). It has not apologised for permitting the demolition of the Masjid. Even while expressing "regret" the Congress party is fighting shy of stating the truth. The former home minister, under Narasimha Rao, S B Chavan had himself stated how the then government had connived in the demolition.

Corruption which has become one of the prime issues today finds a passing mention with merely three sentences in a 20 page resolution, being devoted to it. While stating that the Congress believes in probity and transparency in Public life. It also makes a false statement claiming that "in the past, we did not fail to take appropriate action in case of any impropriety ." We may add that action was taken only when protest actions were made and voices were raised.

On the plight of the scheduled castes and tribes, while it acknowledges that lot more needs to be done for the betterment of their conditions, (which could not be achieved during the 45 years that it was in power) it recommends the setting up of a high powered commission to help address the situation. It has also acknowledged the "rising expectation" of the weaker sections of society and "the failure of our system to fulfil these aspirations." But however, it unscrupulously takes credit for the implementation of the Mandal Commission Report. The Resolution states that the recommendations of the Mandal Commission "were in fact implemented peacefully and to the satisfaction of the backward classes of India by the Congress party in which our Congress president Sitaram Kesri played a pivotal role." It seeks to hide the fact that the Congress government had sat over the report for full ten years and it was the National Front government under V P Singh that had taken out the report that was gathering dust and made announcement about its implementation. Even in the agitation that followed, the Congress party played a dubious role.

While the Congress claims rightly that it is the only political party which has a "presence" throughout the country, the resolution fails to make a self-critical review of what was wrong in its policies that led to its alienation from the people and its steady decline in influence and support.


The Political resolution makes a scathing attack on the Left parties and targets the CPI(M) in Particular. It makes wild and unsubstantiated  allegations against the Left parties, the governments headed by the Left in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura as well as well as the CPI(M). The resolution states that "It appears incongruous that these very parties have not hesitated to ally with the BJP in the formation of governments in the past, specifically in 1977 and 1989." To set matters straight, the BJP had yet not been formed in 1977. It was the Janata Party which was formed at that time to meet a very complicated situation when the country was overwhelmed by the onslaught on democratic rights. The then Jan Sangh had merged and had become part of the Janata Party. The CPI(M) had supported the Janata Party and not the Jan Sangh or the yet to be formed BJP. It may also be noted that this support was for dismantling the emergency framework and was withdrawn once this possibility was exhausted.

In the 1989 elections, we may recall that it was due to the firm stand taken by the CPI(M) and the Left that the Janata Dal did not go in for an alliance with the BJP and merely had seat adjustments. The Left and CPI(M) had nothing to do with these either. In the government that was formed after these elections, it was due to the uncompromising stand of the Left parties that the BJP was kept out of government. The resolution also states that "The Congress party, in its long and chequered history, has never under any circumstance, tried to associate or align itself with any communal party or force." Nothing can be more further from truth. The Congress had and continues to have an alliance with the Muslim League in Kerala, which is a communal party despite the recommendations of the Darbara Singh Committee which was appointed by the CWC. It falsely alleges that the Congressmen in Left ruled states have been put to untold sufferings and victimised. This is nothing but slander. Not stopping at that the resolution states: "For the last 20 years the Left Front government has inflicted untold sufferings and miseries on the people of West Bengal." The Congress has not pondered as why in successive elections the CPI(M) led Left Front has won and continues to be in power if "untold sufferings" have been inflicted on the people. The success of the Left Front stems from its implementation of land reforms, providing relief to the people within the limits and powers of the state government and its resources and accountability, decentralisation of administration etc. The people of West Bengal cannot be fooled to believe that the CPI(M) has indulged in any sort of corruption in the Personal Ledger Account case as it seeks to project it. The Calcutta High Court and the CAG have both held that it has not found any irregularity to have been committed. It is not expected of a responsible political party to make such false allegations.

The Congress hypocrisy gets exposed when it talks of land reforms. The resolution while making a false claim that "the tiller of the land was restored the ownership of the land also" in the same resolution states that "The process of land reforms has not yet, however, been fully completed and various hurdles have been thrown in the way of its successful implementation." The Congress should be frank to admit that it is due to "hurdles" or pressures, within its own party which has been in power for four and a half decades, that it has not been able to implement land reforms. It is only in states like West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura where the Left is strong that land reforms have been successfully implemented.

It claims that the Congress is the only party which can "gather together people in all parts of India and transmit to them the vigour and vision which will bring the country out of the present feeling of despair and despondency." How can this be done without engaging in any introspection of the causes for its failures?


In the economic resolution it tries to justify the policies that it had pursued during its rule. It has failed to learn any lesson from the severe drubbing that it received in the 1996 elections. The resolution in no uncertain terms praise the economic policies dictated by the World Bank-IMF prescriptions, pursued under the Narasimha Rao dispensation. It states that "The liberalisation process initiated by the Congress party in July 1991 imparted a big push to the economy and put industry on a higher growth path trajectory. What this means to the mass of the Indian population who have unsurmountable miseries heaped on them is not the concern of the Congress. That self-reliance as a goal has been given up is not disclosed any more with emphasis on foreign capital and investment. It undermines and in fact even negates the role of the public sector by stating that "The public sector played a very critical role in the initial stages of our industrial sector.....unfortunately the returns on the public sector of both the centre and the state are negligible." The public sector was not envisaged as profit making institutions but were entrusted with the task of nation building. It has played this role and quite successfully. There are big public sector enterprises which are huge making profit also. The argument against the public sector, is intended to seek its privatisation. It is not the loss making ones that are sought to be sold but the profit making ones. The Congress had since 1991 and still continues to advocate this policy.

In the economic resolution, there is a section titled "Protecting the interests of the workers". However, apart from seeking adequate resources for the National Renewal Fund for "workers who might be affected by economic restructuring" and a sentence about child labour nothing has been said about either the conditions of the working class or steps to improve their lot. It talks of the Rozgar Yojana and solution of the unemployment problem through it. There is nothing else in this section devoted to the "protection of workers interests."

In the "International Resolution" it completely evades issues on which imperialist pressures and intervention has been felt and refuses to point out why India has of late not been playing the role it had played earlier in international affairs. The resolution does not attack the role of imperialism in this region, directly. It even does not acknowledge that the improvement of relations with our neighbours in the recent period is the achievement of the Untied Front government. Like the other three resolutions, through this resolution too the Congress Party has indulged in self admiration. No doubt the Congress party had a role, and a major one at that in the shaping of India's non-aligned policy. But it was a reflection of the popular sentiments and anti-imperialist feelings. This orientation of foreign policy changed as soon as liberalisation was introduced in the economy.

A common thread running through all these resolutions, as has been pointed out repeatedly in this piece, is the exercise in giving plaudits to oneself. In the process the Congress seeks to identify history of India from the day when the Congress was born to be the history of the Congress party and its leaders. Nobody else has got any place in it. If at all they have, it is for the negative aspects, for the ills afflicting society.


These lengthy resolutions indulge in a lot of rhetoric. But they are directionless given the fact that the Congress party has no intention to learn from its past mistakes. It does not even acknowledge these mistakes. It was natural that the delegates were wanting in interest. This is evident from the few number of amendments that were moved to the resolutions. The session being held in the background of the 50th anniversary of independence should have made an attempt to review why the premier party in the country which had monopoly of power for many years both in the Centre and the states has been rapidly losing ground and finds itself marginalised. Why has it failed to evaluate the emergency experience and the terror of a regime that was in place then crushing underfoot all democratic rights and civil liberties. Ever since it first faced defeat in eight states in the 1967elections, its hold over the masses has been loosening. It has not made any evaluation of why the weaker sections, the poor, the scheduled castes, the scheduled tribes, the minorities who were solidly rallied behind the Congress have now deserted the party.

Instead of assessing and reviewing the causes for its failure, the Congress party tries to draw comfort from the discomfort of others and by attacking the Left, particularly the CPI(M). It still does not want to acknowledge that its support base has shrunk and that the old days are gone. It hangs on to the hope that it will regain its past glory. It is in this context that it scorns at coalitions. "Some people, therefore seem to be mistaken when they propound the theory that the era of coalitions has begun in India, totally negating the possibility of a single party government in the future." But the very fact that the Left Front has been in power in West Bengal for the past 20 years and more is proof that coalitions do work. This is the reality of the Indian situation today, with no single party yet in a position to come to power on its own. In Kerala also, both the UDF and LDF are coalitions of different political parties.

The high sounding phrases that are contained in these resolutions and the fiery speeches that were made in the session has failed to enthuse the ordinary Congress worker or the mass of the population in general.

Coming on the eve of the Golden Jubilee Celebration, this AICC session it was presumed would indulge in self introspection and give a new orientation and direction to the movement. Instead, all that it has done is taken credit for all achievements made by the country while laying blame for its failures and drawbacks on others. It makes a bid to negate the sacrifices and contributions made by others streams to the freedom movement by appropriating all credit to itself. In the process Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad, Ghadar heroes, the different revolutionary streams, the peasant and workers struggles in different parts of the country, the INA uprising, the revolt by the Naval ratings, and the countless other unsung heroes who shed their blood for the sake of the country's freedom is sought to be relegated to the background. Such a partisan approach is uncalled for. One would have expected that atleast on this occasion an effort would be made by the Congress party to give these movements their due.


It is only by reviving the patriotic traditions of the freedom movement that the forces of communalism and other fissiparous tendencies can be fought against and secular values inculcated. While the Congress has played a major role in the struggle for freedom the role of other political parties and forces cannot be ignored. Their role also deserves recognition. Distortion of history and self glorification will not lead the Congress out of the present morass. What is required is a self-critical appraisal of its shortcomings and the steps to overcome it. But it does not seem that the Congress has any intention of doing so.

(August 17, 1997)