People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 12

March 29, 2009


Who Is Talking About Common Programme - Congress Of Today?

Dipankar Mukherjee

Former United Nations diplomat Shashi Tharoor, the present Congress candidate for Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala told in an interview last month:

I have been approached by both Soniaji and Dr Manmohan Singh and I like the Congress of today. I am and I was critical of Indira Gandhi and Nehru, but I like the Congress of today. I hope I will get to represent the Party” (The Economic Times, February 14, 2009)

Tharoor got the ticket for Congress of today and to his credit it must be said that there are many such Tharoors within Congress who like the Congress of today, more precisely the post-1991 Congress. For them Congress begins from 1991 – the post-reform Congress – the Congress for liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation and Americanisation.


This post-91 policy perspective was explained by none other than David Mulford till recently the US Ambassador in India whose proximity to George Bush and hence to Dr Manmohan Singh does not need any elaboration. In his address, before the American Enterprise Institute, Washington on April 24, 2006 on US-India nuclear deal, he said in his introductory remarks:

How well do we understand India today, and more to the point, how well do we understand India’s future and what this means for the United States in the long term and for our US national interests? This involves some advanced course work.  India began its transition in the early 1990s following the Cold War and was a near-financial calamity at that time.  That was when economic reforms were first introduced as it happens by the man who is presently prime minister of India, Mr Manmohan Singh.  And it was also at that time and thereafter in the 1990s that India began to move away from its traditional, non-alignment stance in foreign affairs.

And then coming to the strategic relationship with the US, he added: 

Finally, under the new framework for the US - India Defense Relationship, which was signed in June of 2005, we have built a compelling case for defense co-production and industrial participation and projects in India, and have established a new defense procurement and production group under the cabinet-level defence policy group.  Thanks to this more activist approach, the US is now a contender for an $8 billion combat aircraft tender and other military platforms that are under review…

We have seen an enormous rise in the exchange of personnel, visits back and forth by military personnel in all services.  We have seen a rise in both the number and the complexity of joint exercises - naval, air force, army - and this has been part of the process that has generated this greater commitment to inter-operability, objectives, framework agreement, and the opening of the defense market, which I can describe and which I very much hope we see and which I think we can bring an enormous amount to.” 

And he summed up with the following words:

I am talking about what has happened more recently and I have tried to identify what I believe in the 90s were the beginnings of fundamental changes in India…First of all, genuine economic reform aimed at opening to the world, integrating its economy more into the world.  This is happening, and also transforming its policy of non-alignment and in that process, deciding they need a closer relationship with the United States.  These are very, very big, and in my opinion will be lasting changes.  So, my point is we need to look at India in a new light.”



The so-called “lasting changes” in India’s economic, foreign and defence policies which was followed since nineties by both Congress and BJP led governments, are not acceptable to the people of this country. To undo the “lasting changes”, a non-Congress non-BJP alternative is the cry of the day and that is the major objective of the secular parties which have rallied around the banner of third front for a pro-people economic policy, independent foreign policy and a self-reliant defence capability. An attempt in this direction was made by the Left parties through National Common Minimum Programme. But time and again NCMP was violated by the Congress. The breaking point came when the UPA government abjectly surrendered before US through Defence frame work agreement and the nuclear deal.

Today, in the wake of global financial melt down caused by globalisation, its own proponents and the market fundamentalists in US and Europe are being forced to go for nationalisation of banks and imposition of government control on economy. But has “Congress of today” learnt any lesson? Obviously not. That is why the people are craving for a change in the policy direction through an alternative.



The Congress party fielded its senior leader Pranab Mukherjee to question the programme or vision of the non-Congress non-BJP alternative. One recollects his perception about Congress programme after his expulsion from Congress party as reported in The Statesman dated May 04,1986:

He would work to remove poverty from the country and establish a secular socialistic society devoid of exploitation. Mr Mukherjee alleged that instead of alienating the suffering common people Mr. Rajib Gandhi was patronising the elite of the society. If the party was not run on the ideas of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, the present leadership would not be able to save the Congress”.

For many of Congressmen of today “socialism” is a “shunned” word and Nehuruvian policy is of archaeological value, only to be revisited in election manifesto. Even today when the US and West is compelled to opt for state control as the bastion of capitalism and crony capitalism collapses all around, exploitation is not a matter of concern for these Congressmen. Their parameter of growth is the number of billionaires and the elite which are being patronised through public exchequer by liberal tax concessions and unhindered accumulation of wealth. It is such serious aberration from Congress of yesterday that a Lord Meghnad Desai could advise the Congress of today to merge with BJP, as their economic policies are identical.



When Pranab Mukherjee queries about the common programme of the third front, one is prompted to ask about common programme of Congress-TMC in West Bengal. Forcibily closing down 1500 crore automobile project in Singur so that BJP-ruled Gujarat gets that project, not allowing any SEZ in West Bengal when more than 132 SEZs are being set up in the rest of the country, no PCPIR project in West Bengal inspite of its best location approved by Congress-led UPA government, no roads, power plant, transmission tower, power sub-station, townships etc – Is this the common programme of Congress-TMC? Does the Congress want to divide Bengal again? If no, as per which programme they have re-nominated Dawa Narbula their sitting MP who has been vociferously supporting the demand of a separate Gorkha Land by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha? What Common Minimum Programme Congress has with TMC, which has explicit nexus with Jharkhand Party demanding separation of three districts from West Bengal to Jharkhand, KLO in North Bengal demanding a separate Kamtapuri and the Maoists? Apart from devising unconstitutional means to overthrow the duly elected Left Front government what other common programme Congress has with TMC and its allies? And has the Congress discerned any change in what Pranab Mukherjee said in response to a question “can you afford Mamta’s desertion in West Bengal” in January 1998. To quote his words:

If somebody wants to cut her nose to spoil the feast of others, what can we do? …She simply indulged in reckless adventurism. Can you find a parallel in politics where a person’s only philosophy is that “I do not accept any one. I do not obey any one “you show me one instance. The language she used, the way she behaved ..” ( dated January 10, 1998)

The language has not changed, if one sees for a sample TMC statement on Mukherjee when he was awarded Padma Vibhusan in 2007. She does not accept or obey even the people’s verdict through ballot box. What has changed, Pranab Babu? Has Congress of today joined the band of reckless adventurers in West Bengal? Was Singur not enough for such a reckless adventure?



Whosoever becomes the leader of the non-Congress non-BJP alternative after the election, one thing is clear. The alternative will at least ensure that no foreign ambassador will have the audacity to comment on the choice of a cabinet minister, the way David Mulford did in his address on April 24, 2006 in Washington. In course of reply to a question “what are we doing to make India more sensitive to this concern that they do not do investment of certain sort in the oil and gas industry of Iran”? Mulford said:

The Indians have made a change recently in their ministry of Petroleum which is read in India at least as a move of the person who was very much keen on that project out of that department and a new person in there who has a much more broader and balanced view of their energy problems and so on”

Needless to say that the project referred was Indo-Iran gas project which is now in doldrums. But shockingly no Congressman of today and their leader - the Bush-lover prime minister had the courage to challenge such obstinate and distasteful remarks by an ambassador about the ministers of a sovereign country.

The Statesman on May 5, 1986 quoted Pranab Mukherjee saying that “mass-based political party like the Congress (I) and a commercial undertaking could not be run by the same type of people. Bureaucrats and retired civil servants were not expected to run a political party well. A distinction had to be made between managing a firm and a political party.”

Congress of today did just the opposite. Mukherjee, member of Rajya Sabha since 1969 and the leader of the same House during 1980-1985, had a taste of it when his RBI governor (when Pranab Babu was Finance minister) became leader of Congress Party in Rajya Sabha in 1998 and became prime minister in 2004. Ironically he had to head more than 40 group of ministers (GOM) inspite of having a prime minister at the helm and he has to enter into joint venture with TMC as a junior partner without any political chemistry barring sustained threat and abuse from the major partner i.e. TMC. It is high time for Congressmen of today to rethink about their own programme and leader without bothering about others. Congressmen of yesterday who are still in the party must assert so that 123 year old party does not become an 18 years old new version of old rightwing “Swatantra Party”, with Manmohanomics replacing Nehruvian policies.