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Rahul Gandhi the Next Congress President

Your party, the Indian National Congress, respects tradition. Family tradition. Your mother wants you to succeed her as party president.

So you shall. You are confident no other Congress worker will contest against you. It is but a formal wait for the declaration of the result. Such is the strength of inner-party democracy. You will be the fifth Nehru-Gandhi to step into the shoes of party president. Your forefathers from your grandfather’s side were from Kashmir — the Nehrus. Your party website tells me that they had settled in Delhi since the beginning of the 18th century. The website informs that some ancestors of yours worked for the colonial rulers. Motilal Nehru’s grandfather, Lakshmi Narayan, “became the first Vakil of the East India Company at the Mughal Court of Delhi”. Motilal’s father, Gangadhar, “was a police officer in Delhi in 1857, when it was engulfed by the Mutiny”. The website recalls that “when the British troops shelled their way into the town, Gangadhar fled with his wife Jeorani and four children to Agra where he died four years later”. Motilal was born in 1861, three months after his father’s death. Thereafter, the family moved to Allahabad. They took to law, their ancestral profession, so to say. But they also turned nationalists, unlike their immediate ancestors.

Motilal was Congress president at two crucial junctures — in 1919 after Jallianwala Bagh and in 1928 when the country was divided over the Dominion Status olive branch of the British. You never saw Motilal. You never saw Jawaharlal either. You, of course, saw your grandmother Indira Gandhi who was the second person from your family to become Prime Minister and party president. You were born in 1970 and may have the blurred memories of hectic activities at home when you were five years old. You were in your teens when your father Rajiv succeeded his mother to both posts. The third from your family. After his death in 1991, none from your family presided over the fortunes of the Congress till 1998 when your mother, Sonia, became president. The fourth member. In all, between these four members, they held the post of Congress president for 44 years. The party, founded in 1885, has a history of over 130 years.

But then, statistics don’t tell the real story, isn’t it? Let’s leave out your great-great-grandfather, Motilal, from the rest of this meandering tale. He headed the party long before Independence. But I am including you in this, even though you are yet to be president. That makes it a happy four-some, comprising two parent-child pairs. Jawaharlal and Indira on the one hand, Rajiv and you on the other. What a twist of irony between the pairs? In the first case, Kamala, the wife and mother, did not live long and the daughter apprenticed under the father for decades. In the second case, Sonia, the wife and mother, became your mentor after your father died quite young. Your grandmother learnt politics and the art of governance from her father. Her mother, Kamala, was present till her untimely death in 1936, but the father-daughter bond is what is important. I am told Kamala took part in the freedom movement in her own way. But it was Indira’s father who tutored her after she entered her teens. They were rarely together, with him mostly in jail or touring the country when out of it. The education was through his letters to her.

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