The Inevitability of Mrs. Gandhi

The Inevitability of Mrs. Gandhi

I want to put in perspective the great split in the Congress party of India in the middle of 1969, its leftward swing since then, and the hesitation in that swing during the fall of 1970, soon after the party’s ruling body, the All-India Congress Committee, met in the capital city of Bihar, politically the most unstable state in India.

The split came in part as the climax to a tussle between the party and the government, something that often occurs in a parliamentary system. An influential caucus in the Congress, imbued with a strong king-making complex, had engineered Mrs. Gandhi’s choice as Prime Minister in 1966; she was then, or so they thought, a political fledgling, likely to be a useful vote-catcher because she is the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. But a clash began to build up as soon as she showed she would not be the mere puppet of the Congress machine. And behind this struggle of cliques and personalities, rival values were struggling for ascendancy. Age, orthodoxy and conservatism on one side, and on the other youth, a strong desire for economic and social change, and a willingness to risk some dynamic instability in Indian life.

The lines were not, of course, as clearly drawn as I here sugg...

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