fifty years ago August 19, 1969 Archives

From the Archives (August 19, 1969): ‘Congress has split beyond repair’

Mr. S.K. Patil, Member of Parliament and Treasurer of the All India Congress Committee, said in a statement here [Bombay] to-day [August 18] that whatever might be the result of the Presidential election, there was no denying the fact that the Indian National Congress had split, perhaps “beyond repair.” “Nobody likes to say these things, but the logic of events is inexorable,” he said and added, “for the last few days, many Congressmen were literally praying that something would happen even on the eve of the election to avert the dreadful consequences of an open split. That did not happen.” As regards the demand for a free vote, Mr. Patil said the free vote was nothing but a vote for Mr. Giri who was basically a Communist candidate and perhaps for that reason a favourite candidate of the Prime Minister. “It would be less than honest for the Prime Minister to deny that she had in ever so many ways encouraged the candidature of Mr. Giri. On a closer examination a free vote becomes a ludicrous farce when every other political party had issued a whip for its candidate.” A free vote had two objectives Mr. Patil said, one was to defeat the Congress candidate and the other was to provide protection to defectors against disciplinary action. This idea of a free vote was a diabolical suggestion which crept into the correspondence at a later stage. Mr. Patil said: “The Prime Minister was committed to support Mr. Sanjiva Reddi by her own declarations. What made her resile from her original position was the impossibility of defeating Mr. Sanjiva Reddi without open revolt. This is the genesis of the free vote. The Prime Minister has thus succeeded in wrecking the Congress which her father and many others had ceaselessly toiled to build and strengthen. “This great national edifice which was the result of dedicated services and sacrifices of millions of people was wantonly pulled down for selfish motives. Heavens would not fall if Mr. Sanjiva Reddi is elected President of the Union. The Prime Minister had deliberately shut the doors against any possible way out. One fails to understand how this would help the Prime Minister and her colleagues. “Whether Mr. Sanjiva Reddi wins or loses, the Congress will not be the same again. I am glad to know that some colleagues of ours are making efforts for a reconciliation. It will indeed be a miracle if such a reconciliation comes about after what has happened.”

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