Nehru's letter to Sadiq Ali in 1950: Congressmen must avoid creating disunity within party

The Congress Party has for the past many months now been witnessing simmering dissension. One such occasion arose in 1950, but the call for unity given by Nehru and Azad succeeded. Read more here

Nehru's letter to Sadiq Ali in 1950: Congressmen must avoid creating disunity within party

Mridula Mukherjee

The Congress Party has for the past many months now been witnessing simmering dissensions. Some senior leaders have raised concerns about the functioning of the party and though some efforts were made to heal the breach, fissures remain. This is not the first time that differences have cropped up in the Party. One such occasion arose in 1950, when J.B. Kripalani announced on 2nd November the formation of the Congress Democratic Front as a new bloc within the Congress which would seek to energise the Congress. The conciliatory response of the CWC, as conveyed in the draft letter by Jawaharlal Nehru to Sadiq Ali, one of the members of the group, and the call for unity given by Nehru and Azad succeeded in persuading the organisers to dissolve the front on 3rd May 1951. Extracts:

"I have received your letter without date which reached me on the 4th of November together with a copy of the statement of the Congress Democratic Front which you sent me. I have also received your letter of the 3rd December.

The Congress Working Committee have given a good deal of thought to the formation of this ‘Congress Democratic Front’. The question before us was not just an interpretation of the Constitution, but wider issues were raised which required earnest consideration. You refer to what Shri Kala Venkat Rao, the General Secretary of the Congress, is reported to have said about the Congress Democratic Front.

I understand that he made a casual remark in answer to a question at a railway station. [Kala Venkat Rao declared the Front to be ‘definitely against the Constitution of the Congress’. Sadiq Ali had enquired on 3 December whether Rao’s views were the considered opinion of the Congress]. So far as the constitutional aspect is concerned, we are not aware of any specific act of the Congress Democratic Front which may be said to bring it within the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Congress.

Nevertheless, it is our considered opinion that the formation of such a group, even within the Congress, can only have a disruptive influence on the Congress organisation and lead progressively to the weakening of that organisation. Such a group can either be a non-functioning group or, as presumably it is intended, it can be an active and working group. In the latter event, it is inevitable that points of difference and conflict arise between it and the main body of the Congress. If this process continues, the result is bound to be a parting of the ways.

The Working Committee therefore had to consider this question from the point of view of all these wider consequences and I have been asked by them to convey to the leaders of the Congress Democratic Front their considered views on the situation, as it exists at present. [The Working Committee decided on 5 December that the Congress President should point out to Kripalani “that the method adopted by him was not proper and was likely to lead to dissensions in the Congress” and urge him to dissolve the Front].

The new group consists of some respected members of the Congress and old colleagues. Anything that they might say must necessarily command attention. But even more than this, it is the duty of all Congressmen to take a full stock of the present position and decide on a clear course of action.

The domestic situation in the country is full of difficulty. The international situation is still graver and the world seems to hang on the brink of terrible war. This is a moment when all of us have to think impersonally of these larger issues which affect our people and our country and we cannot lose ourselves in petty conflicts.

The Congress has a proud record of service in the past. If it cannot serve the country adequately in the future, then the reason for its continued existence goes. We are convinced that in the circumstances of today and the foreseeable future, it is essential for the Congress to continue to serve the country. If it is to continue, then it is obvious that it should continue, insofar as possible, as a strong, united and effective body, holding on to certain ideals and objectives and working for them.

If that is so, then it becomes the duty of every Congressman to strengthen the Congress and to avoid doing anything which may weaken or disrupt it. Whatever faults may have crept into the organisation have to be remedied in a way so that the Congress may become a purer and more efficient organisation for the work it has to do. To try to remedy these faults by methods is surely not a proper method for a Congressman to adopt.

For this reason, any step which disrupts the organisation of which all of us have had the privilege to be members, must be deprecated. I should like the leaders of the Congress Democratic Front to consider whether the action they have taken in forming their group can have any other result except, ultimately, to disrupt the Congress. Those who want the Congress to continue as a living organisation must necessarily oppose such efforts and this will breed conflict which cannot do any good to the organisation or to the country.

We are fully aware of the weaknesses and failings of the Congress as it is today. These weaknesses and failings can only be got over by a united effort and hard work on the part of Congressmen. The way of disruption is merely to increase those weaknesses. In the crises that we face today, both national and international, it is of the utmost importance that we should all pull together and not present a disunited front to the perils that face us.

The Working Committee hope, therefore, that the leaders of the Congress Democratic Front will give full consideration to these matters in all their far- reaching aspects and appreciate that any action of theirs which has a tendency to disrupt the Congress cannot possibly lead them to realise the objectives they have set before them. These objectives indeed are, or ought to be, common to all Congressmen.

The Committee, or some members of it, would like to meet some of the leaders of your group to discuss the situation as it has arisen, so that we might jointly find ways and means to attempt to solve the problems before us, and to strengthen the Congress rather than to weaken it.”

(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum & Library)

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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